ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan is waiting like so many others to see what the market will be for free agent slugger Josh Hamilton
Ryan said Wednesday that because of that uncertainty he doesn’t have a gut feeling on whether Hamilton will return to Texas next season.
“You don’t know who the players in the market are going to be, and what that market is going to be. I think people will have a better feel after this week,” Ryan said, referring to this GM meetings that are taking place in California. “I think people will have a better feel for what peoples’ level of interest is.”
The biggest uncertainty appears how long of a contract Hamilton could get, not how much money the 2010 AL MVP could make each season.
“I think there’s this perception that we don’t want Josh back. That’s not accurate. I’d love to have Josh back. It’s got to work for both sides,” general manager Jon Daniels said at the meetings in Indian Wells. “Whether he ends up here or not, I feel like some need to defend him right now that everyone’s kind of throwing out the negatives with him. The reality is like this guy’s been a stud for this franchise for the last five years and done some things that have enabled us to reach levels we hadn’t previously reached.”
Without giving any numbers himself, Ryan is sure everybody could probably make a “reasonable guess” on the per-annual salary Hamilton will get. The 31-year-old slugger hit a career-high 43 home runs with 128 RBIs in 148 games this year. He has hit .304 with 161 homers in his six major league seasons, the last five with the Rangers.
“Are you looking at a Fielder deal, as far as nine years. Are you look at a (10-year) Pujols deal, Or are you looking at seven years,” Ryan said. “That’s the question that probably isn’t answered yet, that people probably don’t have a feel for, the length of the contract.”
Unique in Hamilton’s case is his troubled past, and drug and alcohol addictions that nearly derailed the No. 1 pick of the 1999 draft from ever getting to the major leagues. He has also dealt with a variety of injuries, though he is one of baseball’s best players when healthy.
The Rangers made a $13.3 million qualifying offer last week to Hamilton, a move to ensure draft-pick compensation if he signs with another team. They know Hamilton will make more than that. The protective move didn’t change the team’s approach with the outfielder.
Asked if the Rangers yet had parameters to consider for a possible deal, Ryan responded, “Obviously, I think everybody in their mind has what their tolerance is.” Again, he didn’t elaborate.
During the season, Hamilton and the team put on hold negotiations about a new deal. They agreed then that Hamilton and his agent would get a feel for what the market is and then get back to the Rangers.
Ryan said that hasn’t changed, but that the team can’t be waiting until January for a resolution.
“I don’t think you can just sit around and say we have to wait and see what happens with Josh. I think we’ll get a feel here shortly where we think that might be going,” Ryan said. “But we also have to be out there seeing what opportunities are out there, whether there’s opportunities for the club. ... If you just sit back and wait you might miss an opportunity that you might regret, or feel like you could have done something.”
Ryan and new Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan were at the ballpark as part of an outreach event sponsored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum to encourage junior high students from the Arlington area to follow foundations of healthy living.
Magadan, hired last week and the only change to manager Ron Washington’s staff, was the last hitter Ryan ever faced in the majors.
That was in the first inning at Seattle on Sept. 23, 1993, when Ryan sustained a torn ligament in his right elbow while throwing a pitch. Ryan walked off the mound, and Texas reliever Steve Dreyer issued a walk that was charged to Ryan.
“I lie to people and say he was scared to face me,” Magadan said.
When Magadan was hired after six seasons as Boston’s hitting coach, Ryan had no clue about their connection. They talked about it Wednesday.
“I told him, my elbow was killing me in the bullpen that day and I was thinking if I could just get through the game. ... And it finally popped,” Ryan said. “I faced him a lot and I’m really thrilled that we have him because I really think he’s a nice addition to our coaching staff, and think he’s going to bring a very positive message.”