Following the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels picked up one of the top free agents available when they signed former MVP and five-time All-Star Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $US125 million contract. A little over two years later, the contract has become one of the worst in baseball.
In his final three seasons with the Texas Rangers, Hamilton hit .313 with a .952 OPS and averaged 33 home runs. More importantly, he averaged 134 games played in those seasons.
Since signing with the Angels, Hamilton has hit .255 with a .741 OPS and averaged just 16 home runs and 120 games played per season.
To make matters even more troublesome for the Angels, Hamilton’s situation is getting worse and the team still owes him $US83 million over the next three seasons.
Hamilton, who was suspended for three full seasons in the minors because of drug problems, suffered another drug relapse this offseason, putting his 2015 season in jeopardy.
While initial reports suggested Hamilton could be suspended for the entire 2015 season, an arbitrator ruled that MLB could not suspend him since he did not violate the terms of the league’s drug program.
Hamilton did not fail a drug test. Instead, he self-reported what his lawyer argued was a “one-night slip,” according to Michael O’Keefe and Teri Thompson of the New York Dail News.
This was important for the Angels financially because it meant they were still obligated to pay Hamilton his 2015 salary of $US23 million whether he plays during the season or not.
Hamilton started the season on the disabled list with what the Angels say is recovery from offseason shoulder surgery.
During the first week of the season, Angels owner Arte Moreno would not say if Hamilton will ever play for the Angels again, noting there was “specific language” in Hamilton’s contract that he was not permitted to use drugs or drink alcohol, according to Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times.
When asked if he would enforce that language, Moreno said “there is the possibility of pursuing it,” suggesting the Angels would tried to void the contract.
However, as the players’ association and others such as ESPN’s Buster Olney
have pointed out, the collective bargaining agreement would supersede anything written in the contract and the arbitrator has already ruled that Hamilton did not violate the league’s drug policy.
A week later, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported that the two sides were negotiating a way to resolve the dispute, including trades, but that “nothing [was] close.”
Now, the Angels may be resigned to the idea of keeping Hamilton and trying to make the most out of a bad situation.
According to Shaikin, Hamilton will soon begin working out at the team’s Spring Training complex and then go on a minor league rehab assignment. If all goes well, he could then return to the Angels in June.
However, as Shaikin points out, there is still no guarantee that Moreno will want Hamilton back and this could just be a move to buy the team more time to find another solution.
Even if Hamilton does come back, there is still the problem with the production he has shown on the field with the Angels, which is to say, not much.
At this point, it looks like the Angels are in a lose-lose position with Hamilton’s $US125 million contract and there is little hope they will ever get their money’s worth.
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