The Rangers are planning to watch free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton work out prior to Christmas, reports Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. If everything checks out, Texas will consider signing Hamilton to a minor league pact, GM Jon Daniels tells Wilson.
The Rangers released Hamilton back in late August, although at the time reporters (including Wilson) explained that the decision was largely procedural. Texas released Hamilton to free up a 40-man roster spot and also to create the opportunity for Hamilton to be re-signed and play with the team early in the 2017 season.
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Hamilton still has one year remaining on the five-year, $125MM contract he signed prior to the 2013 season (the Angels are on the hook for nearly all of his 2017 salary), and if Texas had waited to release him until after the season and then re-signed him to a minor league deal, Hamilton would’ve been ineligible to play in the Majors with Texas until May 15 of next year. Releasing him in August created some needed 40-man move and also allowed for the possibility that Hamilton is healthy enough to contribute in a part-time role early next year. It’s been expected that the Rangers would ink Hamilton to a minor league deal for quite some time, as the player himself even told Wilson that he was expecting as much prior to his initial release.
Now 35 years of age, Hamilton underwent a pair of knee surgeries last season that proved to be more serious than initially expected. Hamilton underwent surgery to repair some meniscus damage in early June last year, but upon beginning the operation, Dr. Walt Lowe discovered enough damage to the anterior cruciate ligament that an ACL repair was also required. That surgery effectively ended Hamilton’s 2016 campaign — a season in which he was never able to take the field in the Majors.
Once one of the game’s most feared sluggers, Hamilton’s tumultuous career has been in a downward spiral since he signed in Anaheim four years ago. While he delivered respectable production in his first two years with the Halos — .255/.316/.426 — Hamilton never came close to the heights he reached with the Rangers, for whom he batted .305/.363/.549 from 2008-12. He was traded back to Texas in 2015 after a relapse into substance abuse seemingly fractured his relationship with Angels management. The Rangers are on the hook for just $2MM of Hamilton’s 2017 salary, while the Angels are paying him more than $26MM in the final season of his deal.
If Hamilton does land with the Rangers, he certainly won’t be counted on for any kind of regular role with the team. Rather he’d have to earn a roster spot with the club come Spring Training, and even if he were to make the team, it’d likely be as a part-time outfielder and designated hitter. The Rangers currently have Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Gomez and Nomar Mazara lined up in the outfield, but the DH situation is a bit murkier. Joey Gallo could potentially fill that role, though it’s been reported this winter that the team would ideally like Gallo to open the season in the minors. Choo could also line up as the team’s DH next year and beyond, though they’d need to bring in some additional corner outfield help in that scenario.