Earlier today, Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton underwent the season-ending knee surgery that the team had previously announced, but as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram writes, he required not only a repair of his left meniscus (which was previously known) but a reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee as well. Per Wilson, the surgeon who performed the surgery, Dr. Walt Lowe, had cautioned the team that an ACL repair might be necessary last month. He wasn’t certain, however, until seeing the extent of the damage to the ACL first-hand during today’s operation.
Hamilton was already known to be out for the season, but Wilson speculates that the new injury could not only end Hamilton’s time with the Rangers, but could ultimately spell the end of his career. The Rangers have a number of outfield options on the books for next season — Shin-Soo Choo, Delino DeShields, Nomar Mazara and, potentially, Joey Gallo and Lewis Brinson — and the team is only on the hook for $2MM of the $30MM that Hamilton will receive in the final season of his five-year, $125MM pact. (The Angels, who initially signed Hamilton to that deal, will pay the remainder.) As such, it’s possible that the Rangers could simply elect to release Hamilton and let younger alternatives receive the bulk of the time in the outfield next year, according to Wilson. Then again, GM Jon Daniels did voice back in May that the team was committed to Hamilton for the 2017 season.
There’s a chance that Hamilton could be ready for Spring Training next season, but the 35-year-old’s ability to recover from such a massive knee operation at this stage of his career remains to be seen. If he is indeed ready for the spring, however, it’s hardly inconceivable that he could latch on with a new club on a minor league pact.
Hamilton’s best years as a Major Leaguer came with the Rangers, highlighted by his 2010 AL MVP honors, and he returned to the club after a dramatic split with the Angels. Hamilton made an immediate impact with the Rangers in returning to Globe Life Park last season, doubling in a two-hit game in his first home game with Texas and then homering twice in his second game back in Arlington. However, his ultimate contributions to the 2015 Rangers were more modest, as he batted .253/.291/.441 with eight home runs in 182 trips to the plate before hamstring and knee injuries brought his season to an early end.
The Rangers have managed to thrive in spite of the loss of Hamilton, nearly a full season-to-date without Choo and significant regression from DeShields thanks largely to the emergence of Mazara (a strong Rookie of the Year candidate) and the the brilliant play of shortstop-turned-outfielder Ian Desmond. If Choo isn’t able to return to health and/or DeShields continues to struggle, the Rangers could eventually turn to Gallo and Brinson, though the latter has struggled in Double-A in 2016. Gallo isn’t a natural outfielder, but with the Rangers having extended Adrian Beltre for another two seasons, it seems all but certain that he’ll be required to move off of his natural position, third base, if he is to factor into the Rangers’ long-term plans.