The "pay the man" sentiment is overwhelming right now. It was prevalent on Twitter last night. When I hopped in the car last night to grab a quick bite to eat, it was prevalent on the KRLD post-game show. I heard at least a couple of suggestions that the Rangers' front office was just "stupid" if it didn't show Josh Hamilton the kind of money that he was seeking. I'm sure that same hardline mindset was already in place for some well before the events of last night, but last night likely cemented it in the minds of those who were already leaning in that direction. You can also bet that a considerable segment of the fan base is going to be incensed if the Rangers don't do "whatever it takes" to get a deal done.
I mention this now because, even though I'm all about appreciating the moment for what it is, there's an abundance of contract talk out there right now, which has only been further fueled by a flurry of new media speculation and pseudo-updates. MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan notes that the Rangers have been talking to Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye, for "months," which runs counter to some of the recent suggestions that talks were just recently reinitiated. CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman chimes in to tell us that (a) the word is Hamilton wants to be paid like an elite player (shocking, I know), (b) the Rangers have broached the subject of including provisions in any deal that would protect them against injury/relapse (also shocking, I know), and (c) that one "management person" he spoke to would do $100 million over five years, while one agent he spoke to would do as much as $25-30 million over 7-8 years. Good to see they're in such agreeance.
And then there's Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan, who chimed in on the subject thusly:
Like other teams, they remain wary of handing Hamilton the sort of deal Pujols (10 years, $240 million) or Fielder (nine years, $214 million) received even though he may be a superior all-around player at a more coveted position. Despite Hamilton's ascent to superstardom, the Rangers haven't committed more than two seasons at a time to him during his arbitration years, fearful that his years of drug use left his body especially susceptible to injuries.
Still, it's reasonable for Hamilton to seek the sort of money afforded players of his caliber. Kemp, 27, signed an eight-year, $160 million extension last offseason. A year before that, the Washington Nationals gave seven years and $126 million to outfielder Jayson Werth, who turned 32 less than two months after he signed, like Hamilton will.
The most important thing to remember about free agency: All it takes is one team. One team to covet his talent. One team to dream he stays healthy. One team to crave his star power. Just one to take a sledgehammer to sanity.
That won't be the Rangers, at least not midseason. Paying free agency prices now would be madness. They would bank on their inherent advantages to settle on a deal short enough to mitigate the injury questions and lucrative enough to convince Hamilton it's worth signing.
Others share the concern. Three general managers surveyed following the four-homer game Tuesday agreed that even if Hamilton were to play the entire season and finish healthy, they would have trouble giving him much beyond a six-year deal – if that.
Hamilton's expected value from this point forward probably shifted in the minds of some fans and media types last night, but here's the thing you should keep coming back to -- the Rangers' brain trust cannot (and will not) operate like a pack of irrational fan boys with stars in their eyes on this matter. It already has a contract value and length in mind that conforms with the amount of value that the Rangers expect to get over that contract length, and to go above and beyond that number would require part contractual protection, part available resources, and part pure guts, along with some compromise from Hamilton. It's kind of hard to do "whatever it takes" if Hamilton is demanding completely absurd money.
The other thing that you should keep in mind here is the possible fallacy of special over-budget expenditures -- that is, the notion that Ray Davis and Bob Simpson could open up their wallets, bridge the remaining gap between the Rangers and Hamilton's camp by throwing another $20-plus million into the pot, and declare that it's simply a special one-time expense for a transcendent talent. Ownership may be flush with cash, but the supply isn't bottomless, and the reality is that every dollar committed to Hamilton is a dollar that theoretically could be allocated by the Jon Daniels regime towards another talent. You wouldn't have wanted to do that up to this point, of course, because the money spent on Hamilton during his arbitration years unmistakably qualifies as efficiently spent money ... but what about after this year, when the expected value drops a little more and the price goes through the ceiling?
Maybe the Rangers feel they can justify paying Hamilton more than they truly believe he is worth. Maybe they have the money to make it happen, and enough money left over after that to quell any concerns about the state of the budget with Hamilton locked up long term. Maybe that sweet, sweet FOX Sports Southwest money is conveying more benefit than we think it is. But the Rangers undoubtedly have a plan in place for what they want to do with Hamilton and how they want these negotiations to play out, and that plan wasn't shaken from its foundation by what Hamilton did last night.