Earlier this week Josh Hamilton told ESPN that there was nothing new to report on his contract talks with the Texas Rangers. The fact is, to my knowledge, the Rangers and Hamilton haven’t really discussed his looming free agency at all this season. The consistent answer from both sides is always, “Nothing to report.” So, what’s going to happen? This is what I think should happen.
If Hamilton finishes the season well, he’s going to ask for a lot of money. I don’t think the Rangers are going to give him that money given the quality of the team as a whole and also the incredible number of top prospects they have in the minor league system. Ranger fans are going to be very disappointed if the team doesn’t do everything it can to keep one of their most loved and prolific sluggers. But, the reality is, the Rangers are a very good team, even a contender, without Josh Hamilton in the lineup. They’ve shown this during the numerous points that he’s been injured. But, if the Rangers wait until free agency to simply lose Hamilton to the highest bidder (possibly the devil spawn from the northeast), then they get nothing for him.
This is not going to be a popular suggestion, but the Rangers’ best move is to trade Hamilton before the deadline. Some teams are going to be hesitant to sell the farm given Josh’s penchant for injuries. But, you can guarantee that the Rangers can get PLENTY for Hamilton in the trade market. There have been discussions that they are looking for an ace starter to help make another playoff run. I think that’s a bad move given the team already has at least 6 starting pitchers. But, who’s to say what might be available when dangling Hamilton out there for offers. I’d like to see them go after a solid hitting catcher, but it’s not clear to me who might actually be available. It probably won’t known what the Rangers can actually get until trading Hamilton becomes a reality. It might end up surprising us what some teams might be willing to give up to land him.
Would trading Hamilton hurt the playoff run and the Rangers’ chances to make another World Series? I don’t think so. Their lineup is solid from top-to-bottom except in the catcher spot. They have plenty off good fielding outfielders to take his place in left or center. Adrian Beltre is actually playing much better than Josh right now and has quietly become the team leader in batting average and hits. Hamilton’s current stats are padded by his unprecedented April and May. But since then he hasn’t been stellar, and the Rangers are still winning games. He’s only hitting .185 in July and is batting .229 in his last 30 days. Beltre, on the other hand, is hitting .303 in July and has hit .389 over the last 30 days. As Hamilton’s stats have consistently declined over the last two months, Beltre has only gotten better. I think Ranger fans would be surprised at how successful the team could still be without Josh in the lineup.