Christmas is a time for miracles. Little boys and girls filling out wishlists for all the toys and goodies they want Santa to leave under the tree for them. One thing many kids, and even grown-ups, in Orange County have atop their Christmas list this year is Josh Hamilton being traded. Anywhere, just not here. With $83 million and three years left on his contract, that seems like the kind of miracle that even a fat, jolly, magical elf can’t pull off, right?
Lo and behold, another magical elf, Ken Rosenthal, has given us all hope that maybe Christmas miracle sometimes do happen:
A scout with whom I speak regularly predicted Tuesday that Josh Hamilton would not open the season as a member of the Angels.
I would not go that far. But I would bet that Hamilton does not complete the final three years of his contract with the club.
The Angels, according to major-league sources, have discussed a possible Hamilton trade with at least two teams this offseason, the Rangers and the Padres.
The talks were exploratory in nature; they did not gain traction, and the Angels did not contact Hamilton about waiving his no-trade clause, sources said.
First, all the LOLZ at the idea of trading Hamilton back to the Rangers. The Angels should pay Hamilton’s whole remaining contract three times over just to see Ranger fans lose their minds. Alas, that doesn’t seem likely to happen. In fact, any trade at all doesn’t seem likely to happen, but it is telling that the Angels at least made cursory efforts to try and trade Hambone.
The Angels front office has been saying all the right things about Josh this offseason. That they still believe in him. That they accept blame for rushing him back for the postseason. That they think he just needs to “simplify” things at the plate and all will suddenly be right in the world for the idiosyncratic slugger. These attempted trade efforts certainly belie those positive sentiments, not that anyone actually really bought them in the first place.
Trading Hamilton is such a popular notion amongst fans because he’s become such a polarizing figure. His 0-for-the ALDS performance was the point of no return for any of the few Angels fans left that still had any tolerance for him. The thing is though, Hamilton isn’t that bad. Between his DL stints, Hamilton was a solid performer with a .325 wOBA, which was up from .319 the year before. That isn’t a great mark, but it is an above average amount of offensive production. Hamilton is being treated like the second coming of Vernon Wells, but I knew Vernon Wells, and Josh Hamilton, my friends, is no Vernon Wells.
Wells was an actual detriment to the team as he was putting up sub-replacement level production. For the Angels to rid themselves of Wells for the low, low price of two throwaway prospects and paying a vast majority of his remaining salary was a no-brainer because Wells was such a negative. Hamilton, however, is not a negative. He’s a positive. The problem is that he isn’t as big of a positive as everyone wants him to be. His inability to stay healthy and the never-ending stream of excuses that accompany him aren’t exactly helping either.
The larger point though is that Hamilton can still be useful. As bad as he looked in the ALDS, ZiPS projects him to be worth 1.4 WAR and Steamer has him at 1.8 WAR. That makes him a slightly below average starter, which is not an asset you just flush down the toilet. Sending Hamilton out of town and still eating all or almost all of his contract, just isn’t worth it… yet. Now if they can get a team to pick up a large chunk of the money, not even the majority, and send back a fringe prospect or two, then we might be talking. Otherwise the Angels are better off keeping Hamilton.
Just because people don’t like him doesn’t mean the Angels would be better off if they simply excised him from the roster. The addition of Matt Joyce would make it easier to do so, but still would weaken the roster. If Hamilton were to be replaced with a Joyce/Cowgill platoon, they could conceivably replace Josh’s offensive production. Defensively though, Hamilton is quite solid. Cowgill would be his equal or better when he plays, but Joyce is a liability. And having Joyce in the field against right-handed batters would mean taking an offensive downgrade at DH where the Angels would either be stuck with Marc Krauss (who stinks) or C.J. Cron (who might stink against righties). It only works if the Angels can use the money saved by trading Hamilton to sign a replacement bat that can offset his loss. But that only works if the other team eats a big chunk of the salary.
That probably isn’t going to happen though. Despite Hamilton still being semi-productive, he’s a fairly toxic asset at this point. He carries with him too much frustration around his injuries and too much negative attention around his personality quirks and troubled past. There’s a reason that those talks with the Rangers and Padres “did not gain traction.” Maybe the Halos can revisit the talks closer to the start of the season when teams have fewer alternatives and get a lot more desperate. After all, they did talk the Yankees to cover a third of the money still owed Vernon Wells at one point.
Maybe there is another sucker out there.