In the latest twist in the Josh Hamilton Saga, reports are surfacing that the Angels are nearing a deal that would send the slugger to the Rangers. The trade comes in the wake of Hamilton's confession of a drug relapse to MLB commissioner Rob Manfred. Despite Manfred's decision to not suspend Hamilton, who struggled with drug addiction before turning his life around, Angels owner Arte Moreno told media that the embattled star's future with the club was in doubt as the season opened. The comments sparked controversy as many Angels players as well as the MLB players union stood behind the outfielder in response to them. Hamilton reportedly requested to be traded to the Rangers after refusing to report to the Angel's spring training facilities in Arizona for a rehab assignment. He had been recovering from a shoulder surgery when the news of his relapse hit airwaves.
The deal would reunite Hamilton with the team he won an MVP and two league championships with, and relieve the Angels of the burden Hamilton had become even before his relapse. Since signing with Anaheim in December of 2012, Hamilton has been a shell of the great slugger he once was. He hit .255 with a .316 on base percentage in two years with the Angels, with injuries limiting him to an average of only 120 games played each year. There had been reports that he was adjusting his swing to very pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium during the offseason in hopes for a 2015 rebound, but another injury and his subsquent relapse quickly derailed his plans.
Despite being the first overall pick in the 1999 draft by the Tampa Bay (then-Devil) Rays, Hamilton became a huge bust as a severe cocaine addiction caught up with him in the minor leagues. After going through rehab with a strong support network behind him, Hamilton ended up on the Reds major league squad in 2007. Following that season, he was traded to the Rangers for young pitchers Edison Volquez and Danny Herrera. The next five years would see Hamilton etch his name in Rangers lore as he hit .305 with an average of 28 home runs and 101 runs batted in. In 2010, he capped off an MVP season by leading the Rangers to their first World Series ever, then led them back to the fall classic the very next year. During his time in Texas, Hamilton became a clubhouse leader and continued to receive the support of several former teammates after signing with the Angels. Even after his most recent relapse, several members of both the Rangers and Angels still stood up for him, with close friend and Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson even taking shots at Moreno following the Angels owner's comments.
The deal may provide a spark to a Rangers team pretty much left for dead after ace Yu Darvish was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery last month, as Hamilton now joins veteran sluggers Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre in Texas's lineup. However, for the Angels, it only serves as a reminder of another expensive deal gone wrong. In fact, LA Times writer Bill Shaikin writes that the five-year, $125 million contract Hamilton signed in 2012 may be "the worst in Angels history". Hopefully Josh can turn things around in the place where he first became a superstar.