Texas could face obstacles in attempt to keep Josh Hamilton

Money could be an object

The Texas Rangers will soon have to decide what to do about outfielder Josh Hamilton, who is scheduled to become a free agent this fall. And thanks in part to the Angels, none of their options look particularly good.

Hamilton, who will make $13.75 million this year, has said he wants to stay in Texas but he doesn’t intend to give the Rangers much of a hometown discount. So Hamilton and his agent, Michael Moye, may use the 10-year, $240-million deal the Angels gave Albert Pujols in December as a benchmark in their discussions with the Rangers.

There are differences between the two players though. While Hamilton, who is 17 months younger than Pujols, is a former American League most valuable player and a five-tool player, he’s played as many as 133 games in a season just once in his career, missing time with injuries to his ribs, his right wrist, his right arm, back and right thigh. This season he was even hospitalized with an intestinal virus.

Pujols has spent just 47 days on the disabled in his career, averaging 155 games in his 11 big league seasons.

The Rangers are also certain to factor in lessons learned from a few other 31-year-old outfielders — Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Lee, J.D. Drew and Jason Bay — who slumped dramatically after signing lucrative, long-term deals.

It’s not known whether the Rangers have made Hamilton a formal offer yet but when they do, their starting point is likely to be far short of what Pujols got — probably something in the neighborhood of five years and $110 million, or about half what the Cincinnati Reds recently gave 28-year-old first baseman Joey Votto. That’s not likely to get a deal done. And because Hamilton is popular — both in the clubhouse and in the community after leading Texas to two straight World Series — the Rangers will face heavy criticism if he walks.

Upping the offer could be equally as dangerous though. The team is already on the hook for $181.5 million to just four players — Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre — over the next four seasons. And they’ll have to open their wallets wide to keep Mike Napoli, who is also eligible for free agency after the season.

Red Sox reunion

When the Boston Red Sox ended their 86-year championship drought by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinalsin the 2004 World Series, they were considered a team for the ages. But eight seasons later just three players who started that final game are still in the majors. And David Ortiz is the only member of that team remaining in Boston.

In fact the Cleveland Indians, with center fielder Johnny Damon and right-hander Derek Lowe, have more players from that team than do the Red Sox. Neither has been forgotten in Fenway, though, so when the Indians visited Boston in May the team presented Lowe with a 2004 World Series ring to replace the one stolen from his Florida home this spring.

“One of the classiest things I’ve seen,” the pitcher said.

Lowe, 39, is tied for the Indians’ team lead with seven wins in 16 starts, but the 38-year-old Damon is hitting a career-low .207. That has stalled his quest for 3,000 hits. Damon was stuck at 2,753 hits entering Saturday.

Stat watch

30.9: Average age, in years, of the players on the roster of the last-place Philadelphia Phillies, the oldest team in the National League.

6.9: Average salary, in millions of dollars, for the last-place Phillies, the best-paid team in the National League.

1: Rangers’ rank, among major league teams, in hitting, runs, slugging, on-base percentage, on-base plus slugging percentage and runs batted in.

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