Josh Hamilton’s short, tumultuous and disappointing tenure with the Angels officially ended Monday when the team announced it had completed a trade of the troubled outfielder to the Texas Rangers, the club with which Hamilton thrived from 2008 to 2012.
“Over the course of the last few weeks, it became clear that Josh wanted to return to Texas,” said Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto. “After several discussions with the Rangers, we were able to complete a trade that in the end is the right decision for everyone involved."
The trade was for a player to be named or cash considerations. The Rangers will reportedly pay less than $7 million of the remaining three years and about $80 million on Hamilton’s contract, and Hamilton will forfeit a large sum believed to be at least $12 million to the Angels to offset the benefit he will derive by playing in Texas, where there is no state income tax.
So, in effect, the Angels will pay Hamilton about $60 million to play for an American League West rival, a reflection of just how much owner Arte Moreno wanted to rid himself of Hamilton after the player suffered a substance-abuse relapse over the winter.
“As his friend, it’s unfortunate that it looks like I’m going to have to play against him,” Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson, a teammate of Hamilton’s in Texas, said after Sunday’s game. “But that’s the way it goes. You don’t get to pick your teammates.”
Hamilton, who has had a long and well-chronicled addiction to cocaine and alcohol, was a five-time All-Star and the 2010 AL most valuable player in Texas, but he was a bust in Anaheim after signing a five-year, $125-million deal with the Angels.
In 2013, Hamilton hit a career-low .250 with 21 homers and 79 runs batted in. He hit .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs in 89 games in an injury-marred 2014 and was booed at home as he went hitless in 13 at-bats in a division series sweep at the hands of the Kansas City Royals.
“Josh knows that he didn’t play to his potential here,” Wilson said. “I think it comes down to that. He felt responsible to play up to the contract, because it’s a big contract, obviously, and he scuffled a little bit.”
Hamilton, who underwent right-shoulder surgery on Feb. 4 and did not report to spring training camp in Arizona, informed Major League Baseball of his relapse in early February.
But an arbitrator ruled on April 3 that Hamilton, who turns 34 in May, had not violated his drug treatment program, so Hamilton did not have to go into a rehabilitation program and could not be suspended.
Angels management was livid, with President John Carpino saying the ruling “defies logic,” Dipoto saying he had “serious concerns about Josh’s conduct, health and behavior,” and Moreno refusing to say Hamilton would play for the Angels again.
The team had already pulled Hamilton-related merchandise from team stores and refused to issue him a locker in the Angel Stadium clubhouse. Moreno also said Hamilton’s contract contained language that would protect the Angels from a relapse, an assertion vigorously denied by the players’ union.
The sides seemed to inch closer to a reunion last week when the Angels announced a plan to send Hamilton to their Arizona training facility to prepare for a comeback.
Hamilton has been rehabilitating from shoulder surgery at a friend’s ranch in the Houston area, and Manager Mike Scioscia, bench coach Dino Ebel and four players — Wilson, David Freese, Kole Calhoun and Collin Cowgill — met with Hamilton before an April 17-19 series in Houston, the players reporting that Hamilton was in great shape, in good spirits and eager to return to the field.
But Hamilton, who also recently filed for a divorce from his wife, Katie, balked at the plan and told the Angels he wanted to play in Texas, where he lives in the off-season.
On Monday, the Angels officially granted his wish, sending Hamilton to a struggling Rangers club that will get a potential impact slugger at a bargain price.
“It’s not just about baseball,” Angels star Mike Trout said. “He’s a good teammate off the field, a good person to have in the clubhouse. It’s tough.”
The Angels are apparently so convinced that Hamilton will not be a productive player that they traded him without sending him to triple-A Salt Lake for a 20-game rehabilitation assignment, where the team could have done a more thorough evaluation of him.
Had Hamilton shown even a few glimpses of his All-Star form or a swing that showed some potential, the Angels, who are also struggling to score runs, might have benefited from his return or gotten a better return in a trade.
Instead, they are paying roughly $60 million not only for Hamilton to go away, but to play for a division rival the Angels must play 19 times a year. Whatever Hamilton has left, he will surely be more motivated when he plays the Angels. The teams will next square off in Texas on July 3-5.
“As long as he’s healthy and his shoulder is good, I think he can definitely help a team,” Angels designated hitter C.J. Cron said. “Everything off the field, that’s none of my business. When someone is on your team like that he becomes part of your family. All you can do is root for him and hope he sorts all that stuff out.”
Hamilton is the third high-priced outfielder acquired under Moreno and then dumped with at least two years left on his contract, following Gary Matthews Jr. and Vernon Wells.
The Angels paid all but $2 million of Matthews’ five-year, $50-million deal and all but $14 million of the four years and $68 million they inherited on Wells’ contract after acquiring Wells from Toronto.
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