Thursday, February 10, 2011
Reigning AL MVP ready to get to work
By Richard Durrett
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Count on Josh Hamilton to provide a little sunshine in a week full of dark clouds on the Texas Rangers' front.
There was Hamilton, fresh off signing a new two-year deal, cracking jokes and talking about faith, family and how much he wants to be in Texas.
"Both sides wanted to work really hard to make this happen," Hamilton said. "When people come together to figure things out and they respect each other, things happen. Things got resolved kind of easily."
He laughed at that last part, as if to say it wasn't that easy. But the atmosphere was certainly different from what's been hanging over the team all week in light of the Michael Young situation.
Hamilton talked about how he was treated in a "first class" way by the Rangers. He wasn't concerned about where he might play in 2011.
"I'll show up, look at the lineup and play where I'm told," Hamilton said. "If I'm asked to play there, I will. If I'm asked to catch, I'll catch. I want to be wherever, whatever it makes our team the best and gives us the best chance to win games. If that's in center field, I'll be in center field. If that's in left field, I'll be in left."
Hamilton said it all with his ever-present smile. And he had a lot of reasons to be happy Thursday. He signed a two-year deal that means he and general manager Jon Daniels won't be dealing with questions about arbitration hearings again. The contract is worth $24 million total, but pays Hamilton a $3 million signing bonus and $7.25 million in 2011 and $13.75 million in 2012.
If the reigning AL MVP puts up numbers similar to those in 2011, it's a bargain for the Rangers. Predicting how arbiters may rule is about as easy as pitching to Hamilton. But something tells me the odds were in Hamilton's favor of winning that hearing after an MVP season and the two sides $3.3 million apart.
This avoids a hearing, which by its very nature is not a pleasant thing. The team has to state why the player isn't worth as much as he thinks he is, and the player has to make his case as to why he's worth more than the team thinks. That won't be necessary in this case.
"Could I have done a one-year deal, have a good year and get four or five million more? Maybe," Hamilton said. "But it's a fair deal. It's hard to turn down that kind of deal that's fair and both sides agree to it. If it go out and play, stay healthy and have fun, hopefully I'll be here for a long time."
Hamilton is right. He could be leaving some money on the table, but at the same time he gets essentially the $12 million he asked for and the club an extra year at basically that same price.
"It's a two-year deal, but we're hoping it's indicative of a much longer-term relationship and the first of at least two multi-year deals that Josh Hamilton and the Rangers enter into," Daniels said.
Daniels added that he isn't sure when the club might start talking about an even longer deal, but this contract allows both sides some time to work on that. It doesn't include any of Hamilton's free agent years, meaning the slugger can still maximize his earning potential for that long-term deal by how he plays the next two seasons. And the club can see how Hamilton does and what his health is like going forward. If he puts up big numbers and stays away from hitting walls in 2011, maybe talks can begin before he's on the open market after the 2012 season.
But Hamilton isn't concerned about something that's two years away.
"I'm worried about tonight and then getting to spring training," Hamilton said.
He certainly looked ready to go. Hamilton has gained back the 10 pounds he lost after a bout of pneumonia and has continued baseball activities in preparation for spring training.
His No. 1 mission this spring and into the season: Stop hitting walls.
"Last year was a lot better," Hamilton said. "I feel like I learned how to play more in control. When I got hurt, it was a freak accident -- jump, roll my ankle, fall into the wall. I can get hurt walking out of the dugout. I have to go play."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com.