by Dan M | Posted on Thursday, December 13th, 2012

BY:  Dic Humphrey

The news broke Thursday afternoon that Josh Hamilton has agreed to sign with the Angels, reportedly for five years at $125 million.  There had been speculation that Hamilton was talking to a number of teams, but the Angels were not one of them; so the announcement came as a startling surprise.  Needless to say, his signing shifts the balance of power in the American League West dramatically. 

The Rangers and Hamilton had a gentlemen’s agreement for him to seek out other offers and give the Rangers the opportunity to match, as Hamilton had made no secret of his desire to remain with Texas.  In the end, the Rangers were not given the opportunity to match, and Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels is said to be unhappy about it.  That was a nice gesture on Josh’s part to offer, but practically speaking, it is usually not workable.  The Rangers have no one but themselves to blame for not stepping up earlier to make a deal with Hamilton if they really wanted him.

The Angels were thought by many to be the 2012 West Division favorites after the free agent signings of Albert Pujols and C. J. Wilson last winter.  They subsequently added a super star rookie in Mike Trout less than a month into the season and a top of the rotation starter in Zach Greinke at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.  None of that proved to be enough as the Angels still finished in third place.  The starting rotation they counted on fell apart – namely Dan Haren and Ervin Santana – but the Angels are back with a vengeance for 2013.  They have added some interesting bullpen pieces and will undoubtedly tack together a decent starting rotation aided greatly by their pitcher friendly home ballpark.

The combination of Hamilton and Pujols at the three and four batting order spots is as formidable as any in baseball.  With Trout batting in front of them as well as other solid hitters in the lineup such as Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo, they will be a deadly offensive machine.

As for the Rangers, the winter plans for 2013 have literally fallen apart in less than two weeks since the Winter Meetings began.  The team targeted a top of the rotation starter to add to the returning nucleus of Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derrick Holland and Alexi Ogando, all of whom have made an All-Star team except Holland.  The Rangers also wanted Hamilton back or a middle of the order bat to take his place, with much speculation centering on Arizona’s Justin Upton.

Now the two starters most talked about – Greinke and James Shields are gone.  Greinke signed with the Dodgers, and Shields has been traded to Kansas City.  The Diamondbacks have procured the shortstop they were seeking in a trade without giving up Upton, who they are now planning to keep in the fold.  With the Hamilton signing, the top two targets in each area are gone, and the Rangers are left to pick up the pieces.

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News tweeted earlier this week that if Hamilton was not signed, the team would essentially move into a rebuilding mode by going with youngsters – mostly notably Martin Perez in the rotation and Leonys Martin in center field.  That projected batting order in particular will look rather punchless, but with the solid, though not spectacular starting rotation, the team should still be competitive.  However, the Athletics are the defending division champs, a division championship built around a very young, very solid starting rotation.  They will be good again.  And now the Angels will once again be the favorites.  Texas may be in the position of fighting off the Mariners for third place next summer, rather than playing October baseball.


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