The Hot Stove and Josh Hamilton


There are two passages of time during each calendar year where the rumor mill pumps and churns at a higher frequency. There’s now, the pinnacle point of the offseason as the Winter Meetings progress, and then for a small wrinkle during the middle of July, leading into the trade deadline at the conclusion of the month. Within these phases it seems speculation holds enough credence to be considered fact, while reality is actually taking place behind the closed doors we will never access.

All we know is what writers and reporters are being fed, and, well, the majority of the time very little materializes. These people have jobs; airtime must be filled; articles must be written. Fans love speculation, if for nothing else that it piques a natural, starving curiosity.

Biannually, baseball fans are treated to running episodes of Ripley’s Believe it or not and Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction? The only problem is, nothing is real in the baseball universe until it actually manifests.

Of the countless examples, yesterday’s case of Josh Hamilton exemplifies perfectly this phenomena. In the morning, Evan Grant wrote that Hamilton and the Rangers were “making progress” on a 4-year, $20M+ AAV contract. Then, by nightfall, Jon Daniels dispelled the day-long rumor. It left the fan base in a temporary limbo trying to decipher the reality. But hey, this is what we wanted. Right?

After all, who more than Hamilton — arguably the most polarizing figure in the sport — satisfies our itch for arriving closer to the truth?

As it stands now, according to reports, the Rangers have their hands wedged deeply in several options, from Zach Greinke to Josh Hamilton, Justin Upton, to James Shields.

I’m still highly skeptical of the Rangers reeling in any more than one of these names while satiating their desire to keep the organization at or around its current $130M budget. After Geovany Soto banked $2.75M and Joakim Soria brought in a two-year, $8M deal, the payroll is already near $115M. A potential addition of Greinke or Hamilton will almost surely push that figure to the $135M range, and that’s before addressing the second catcher spot.

If the interest is legitimate in both Greinke and Hamilton, you have to figure it either means (a) that ownership is willing to make a special exception for one (if not both) of them, (b) that the Rangers actually have more money to spend than they are leading on, or (c) that they are misinforming the media with a bigger plan in mind. I can see both (a) and (b) making more sense than (c), but (c) wouldn’t be all that surprising given the recent history of the franchise.

Of course, as I mentioned, we really just won’t know anything until it actually happens, and, to take it a step further, we’ll probably never know what their motivations are in any case.

If we re-sign Hamilton and don’t move any of Elvis Andrus/Jurickson Profar/Ian Kinsler, we’re looking at a likely outfield logjam featuring all of Hamilton/Kinsler/Cruz/Murphy/Martin/Gentry. So, yeah, that’s probably not gonna happen. One (and probably two) of those players will have to be moved.

If we sign Greinke, the best bet is that we’ll try to acquire another outfielder, perhaps Justin Upton, in which case either Nelson Cruz or David Murphy will likely be moved to shed payroll.

The fact of the matter remains that if the Rangers plan to execute a powerful offseason where they acquire Greinke and Hamilton, the two most dangerous free agents in the class, the 2013 payroll will skyrocket from around $115M where it’s at now, upwards to the $150M territory. I don’t see how this is feasible, but nothing really surprises me anymore.