Hamilton, Rangers reach 2-year deal
Josh Hamilton walked through a gutted-out room under construction near the Texas Rangers clubhouse. The AL MVP had just agreed to a $24 million, two-year contract.
''I was sweeping places out like this seven years ago or whatever,'' he said. ''This goes for anybody. It's awesome to think about what God can do in your life if you allow him to. ... It's just amazing.''
The deal, four days before a scheduled arbitration hearing in Phoenix, covers his last two arbitration-eligible seasons. Hamilton can become a free agent after the 2012 World Series.
Hamilton gets a $3 million signing bonus, a $7.25 million salary this year and $13.75 million in 2012.
The three-time All-Star has a .311 career average with 93 homers and 331 RBIs in 468 major league games, an incredible comeback for the former No. 1 overall draft pick whose career was derailed by well-documented cocaine and alcohol addictions after he got hurt in the minors. He made his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2007, and he flourished after being traded to Texas.
''We want to be a part of this organization, not only for the next couple of years, but for a long time to come,'' Hamilton said.
General manager Jon Daniels termed the talks with Hamilton as ''very good negotiations'' and said he hopes the deal is indicative of a ''longer relationship'' that will include another multiyear agreement in the future.
''It was apparent that both sides wanted to do something to recognize both Josh's importance to the club, but also he and his family's desire to be here for an extended period of time,'' Daniels said. ''I think the first step that we took here with this deal kind of gets through the arbitration process.''
While the Rangers settled the contract for Hamilton, they are still trying to accommodate Michael Young's request for a trade. Young is the team's career hits leader and longest-tenured player after 10 seasons.
After signing free agent third baseman Adrian Beltre last month, the Rangers said Young would become the primary designated hitter and serve in a utility role where he could fill in at every infield position. He had agreed to that plan.
Daniels confirmed earlier this week that Young had requested a trade, saying Young had a ''change of heart about that role.'' Young later disputed that characterization, saying he had been ''misled'' and ''manipulated'' by the team without getting in specifics.
Hamilton hit a major league-leading .359 last season with 32 homers and 100 RBIs despite missing most of the final month of the regular season with broken ribs. The outfielder returned for the end of regular season and the playoffs.
Hamilton made $3.25 million last season, when the Rangers went to the World Series for the first time in franchise history. When the sides exchange proposed arbitration salaries last month, Hamilton had asked for $12 million, $3.3 million more than Texas had offered.
It has been 11 years since the Rangers went to an arbitration hearing with a player.
''Obviously you want to have things behind you as far as the business standpoint, before you go start playing again,'' Hamilton said. ''This deal done allows me to do that for a couple of years now. ... Just go play and have fun, and stay away from walls.''
Hamilton got hurt last year when he rolled his ankle and stumbled into the wall after making a catch on the warning track in Minnesota. He had two stints on the disabled list in 2009 after separate wall-crashing catches.
Last month, he spent six days in the hospital last month with pneumonia and lost 10 pounds during his illness. Hamilton said he has since added 12 pounds, to 235, and is feeling ''very good'' in his workouts.
Rangers pitchers and catchers report to Surprise, Ariz., next Wednesday. The first full-squad workout is Feb. 20.
There is the real possibility that Young could still be with the Rangers then.
Trading Young is difficult because he is owed $46 million over the remaining three seasons in contract - $15 million in each of the next two seasons and $16 million in 2013 - and there are only eight teams not on his no-trade list. Daniels has said a deal will only be made if it improves the Rangers.
Daniels said Thursday his focus was still on trying to make a trade. He said if a deal was going to be made it would ''most likely'' be done before the first full-squad workout, though he has set no deadline.
''None of us are happy that it's come to this, especially publicly. Nobody looks good right now,'' Daniels said. ''There's two potential outcomes. One is that there's a trade that makes sense for the club and satisfies Michael's request. The other is it doesn't and Michael will play a vital role on the club. ... It's premature for me to speculate on what's going to happen.''