Rangers superstar Josh Hamilton has suggested to his team that he believes he should be paid like an elite player, which of course means like Albert Pujols, Joey Votto and Prince Fielder. But while Hamilton is an elite talent, he is going to need to do some compromising if he's going to remain long-term with Texas.
Hamilton's either going to have to accept fewer years than comparable talents (meaning nothing like nine or 10 years) and he's going to have to share the risk in terms of contract language. Hamilton's history of injuries and drug issues make him untenable as a straight $200-million player. The Rangers would have to seek some sort of protection against at least the drug issues before entertaining anything close to the $200-million-plus deals that went to Pujols, Votto and Fielder.
The Rangers did well to lock up Derek Holland and Ian Kinsler this spring, but they have four star players who are eligible for free agency after the year -- Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis and Mike Adams in addition to Hamilton -- with Hamilton being the big one. The Rangers recently re-rouched base with Hamilton after taking a break following an embarrassing drinking incident involving Hamilton this winter.
The team understands he is an incredible talent who's done some amazing things since coming to Texas and can excite a fan base with his incredible power and other athletic abilities (he hit .359 and had a 1.044 OPS in 2010). But there is that other side. The Rangers have a "life coach'' with him at all times to try to keep himk on the right path, and word is it's quite a fulltime job. While with the Rays, he was suspended so many times for drug use that he needed to be allowed back into the game. And to his credit, he's made the most of his opportunity.
The Rangers and Kinsler took from January to April to work out an easier deal, so this one may take awhile. So far Hamilton hasn't conceded he's an extra risk. Nor has he given the Rangers points for being there when he transformed into a great story and superstar.
"I'm not going to sit here and say I owe the Rangers,'' Hamilton told the Texas media early in the spring. "I don't feel I owe the Rangers.''
Hamilton is maybe the most talented player in the game, and maybe he's just doing that negotiating thing. But whether he admits it or not, he owes the Rangers plenty. They've held his hand and protected him. And he's thrived there. (Hamilton's agent Mike Moye ddidn't respond to a message.)
After Hamilton's relapse this winter, he seemed plenty contrite in his press conference. But those were just words. He needs to show the Rangers that he appreciates how they have helped him by sharing the risk and accepting a much shorter deal, and one that contains protections for the Rangers in case he falls off the wagon again.