In the wake of growing speculation about the lack of development in Josh Hamilton's market and the likelihood of him actually returning to Texas (which sounded completely far-fetched just a couple months ago), Ken Rosenthal offers this update on what sounds like some legitimate advancement in the Hamilton-to-Texas negotiations:
Sources: #Rangers, Hamilton making progress. Deal, if reached, likely would be 4 yrs. But still possible another team could beat TEX offer.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 4, 2012
Meanwhile, in a possibly unrelated but nevertheless interesting development, ESPNDallas.com's Richard Durrett reports that one of the Rangers' money men, Ray Davis, is expected to arrive in Nashville at some point today. Back in January, Davis's co-owner, Bob Simpson, talked up his desire that the Rangers re-sign Hamilton, and one wonders if that is a sentiment that (a) survived the entire 2012 season and (b) is shared by Davis. The position of the front office on the matter is somewhat less clear, although it is believed that Jon Daniels is open to a Hamilton return and that others in the organization may be coming around on the idea of his return.
And that's where we are right now. There have been reports suggesting that the Rangers would prefer to do a short-term, high-AAV deal with Hamilton (Jeff Wilson suggested a three-year pact with a fourth-year vesting option, presumably with salaries ranging anywhere from $20-25 million), and, to that end, four years seems a decent compromise. Texas seems particuarly reluctant to get involved at five or more years, though, and one would imagine that if somebody does decide to throw a fifth year on the table, the Rangers will draw themselves away from the negotiating table to pursue other options.
Even at four years, though, it's a dually frightening/exciting proposition -- on the one hand, there's nobody else on the market who offers the potential offensive impact that Hamilton does, and no team better equipped to extract maximum value out of Hamilton over that proposed four-year window. And on the other hand, you're rolling the dice on Hamilton still having 3-4 quality years of production left. The downside potential here is quite substantial, and, ultimately, I'm still rather surprised that this appears to be coming together.
This may be a case, however, where the organization is confident that it can get at least two-plus additional good years out of Hamilton, and hopeful that does still have a good third year left, with the possibly steep decline in his value during the second half of the deal being partially mitigated by an influx of television money. And the fact that they're reportedly making progress here may signal a willingness to pursue something along these lines over, say, committing an even more massive chunk of green to Zack Greinke over a longer duration.
So, four years. Let's pretend the total obligation is somewhere around $95-100 million over four years, and let's pretend there's going to be a fifth-year vesting/club option tacked onto the end of it. Are you down?
For what it's worth, ESPN.com's Jim Bowden says that the Rangers are considering signing Hamilton, then still going ahead and trading Elvis Andrus for Justin Upton, and plugging Jurickson Profar in at shortstop. To the extent that you can believe that, the Rangers' reported progress with Hamilton shouldn't hamper their pursuit of Upton ... but since when have any of us ever believed anything during winter meetings week?