The 2012 Texas Rangers season came to an abrupt, and disappointing end on Friday night as the club lost the first annual one game Wild Card playoff at home to the Baltimore Orioles 5-1.
To say the club struggled down the stretch is quite the understatement as they finished the season 2-8 in their final 10 games, including losing a 5 game division lead over the Oakland A’s with 9 games left to play. After winning the second game of a double header last Sunday night over the Los Angeles Angels, the Rangers lost their final four games of the season by a combined score of 24-10. The team went into an extended cold slump at the absolute worst possible time.
How did this team many picked to win the World Series wet the bed in the home stretch? Well, one can argue it was due to a variety of factors. The club quite simply stopped getting the clutch hits the A’s got seemingly every day towards the end of the regular season. Mainly, the Rangers just looked completely mentally and physically exhausted towards the end of the year.
Playing as much baseball as this team has played the last three years can take their toll on the body. Remember, the Rangers played six postseason series the last two years, three more than any other team in baseball. I expect Texas to recover and continue to compete in the American League West, but nothing is guaranteed in the great game of baseball.
Jon Daniels and the front office are faced with some very important personnel decisions in the next few months, none more important than what to do with the enigmatic superstar Josh Hamilton.
Despite Josh Hamilton’s late season struggles, some team will pay Josh Hamilton an exorbitant amount of money to play baseball for them next season. While many Ranger fans feel signing Josh is foolish after he dropped a can of corn in a crucial situation in a do or die game against the Oakland A’s last week, or the fact Hamilton struck out 162 times this season, or the fact Hamilton hit .233 in the final ten games, Josh did produce monster numbers during his tenure in Texas.
According to MLB baseball writer Jon Heyman, he believes Hamilton will sign a contract in the neighborhood of 5 years for $150 million dollars. If Hamilton signs a contract similar to the one Heyman suggested, Hamilton would earn the highest annual salary in Major League Baseball at $30 million dollars per season.
Reading about what will soon become baseball’s newest $100 million player got me to thinking about the history of the $100 million dollar player in baseball (The list is quite fascinating). Would signing Josh Hamilton to a $100 million dollar plus deal be a wise decision for not only the Rangers, but any other MLB team? I decided to do a little research, and I think the results may be a little surprising.
Keep in mind, I realize Josh has rubbed many the wrong way in this area towards the end of his time here.
There have been 34 $100 million dollar contracts signed in the history of baseball. Many fans have probably forgotten the first player to ever sign a $100 million dollar contract was former Ranger great Kevin Brown in 1999 when he signed a 7 year $105 million dollar deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 1999 season.
The Rangers have signed one player to a contract exceeding $100 million, and that was Alex Rodriguez back in December of 2000 for a then astronomical 10 year deal totaling $252 million dollars. While Rodriguez played exceptionally during his time in Texas, the club faltered because A-Rod had little talent around him and was traded to the Yankees shortly after winning the AL MVP in 2003.
The average age of the player to sign these mega deals is 28.3. Out of the 34 players to have signed $100 million dollar contracts, only 11 of them have been over the age of 30 at the time they signed their new lucrative contract. 8 of the 11 were position players, and since Josh Hamilton is a position player who will be 31 this offseason when he signs his new deal, I decided to focus solely on these 8 players and crunch their numbers to determine if signing Josh makes sense fiscally.
Here is the list of position players to have signed a $100 million dollar contract over the age of 30:
Ken Griffey Jr. – 9 year deal worth $116,500,000 with the Cincinnati Reds
Alfonso Soriano – 8 year deal worth $136,000,000 with the Chicago Cubs
Carlos Lee – 6 year deal worth $100,000,000 with the Houston Astros
Alex Rodriguez – 10 year deal worth $275,000,000 with the New York Yankees
Ryan Howard – 5 year extension worth $125,000,000 with the Philadelphia Phillies
Jayson Werth – 7 year deal worth $126,000,000 with the Washington Nationals
Albert Pujols – 10 year deal worth $240,000,000 with the Los Angeles Angels
The first thing I have done is I have averaged each of these eight players final season before they were given their huge pay days, and have compared them to Josh Hamilton’s 2012. By doing this study, we can determine if Josh will receive a similar payday, and it should help predict what type of production we can expect from Josh in the future based on his age. If you want to check out each player’s season for yourself, I am sure you are cognizant of the sites to help you do that. I am just simply providing the averages.
8 players final season before mega deal:
157 games played, 114 runs scored, 176 hits, 80 XBH, 42 HR, 118 RBI, .299/.388/.579/.966, 5.5 rWAR
As one can tell, these players produced huge seasons as these numbers are just the averages between the 8 players. In 2007, A-Rod led the league in 5 major offensive categories and won AL MVP. Jason Giambi led the AL in 3 offensive categories, including an incredible 1.137 OPS in 2001. Ryan Howard knocked in 141 runs in 2009 before signing his extension the following April. Now, let’s look at what Hamilton did this year and compare the numbers to the 8 players.
Josh Hamilton’s 2012 season:
148 games played, 103 runs scored, 160 hits, 76 XBH, 43 HR, 128 RBI, .285/.354/.577/.930, 3.4 rWAR
As one again can easily determine, Josh’s 2012 numbers are very similar to the other final seasons. What does this mean? Well, if Josh’s numbers are similar to the average final seasons of the 8 $100 million dollar players over the age of 30, one is led to believe Josh will produce similar numbers beginning in the first year of his new deal and beyond. Just to be sure, I thought I would perform another test. Since Albert Pujols was the most recent player to sign a $100 million dollar deal, I decided to average the first years of the 7 other $100 million dollar player’s contracts, and compare them to Pujols to find out if the numbers also look similar.
7 players other than Pujols 1st year of new contract:
146 games played, 96 runs scored, 159 hits, 67 XBH, 33 HR, 100 RBI, .285/.370/.530/.900, 3.8 rWAR.
The most eye opening thing one will notice is the decline in all major offensive categories. Jayson Werth’s 2011 season with Washington skewed these numbers slightly, but Giambi and Griffey pushed them up as they were the only players to hit more than 40 HR. Carlos Lee was the only player to appear in all 162 games for his team in the first year of his $100 million dollar contract., which is also the only 162 game season of any player who has ever signed a $100 million dollar contract over the age of 30. And, with Josh Hamilton’s well known inability to stay healthy, he will more than likely play less games than many of these other players who did not have health issues before signing their enormous contracts. Now, let’s compare the numbers to Pujols 1st year.
Pujols 2012 season:
154 games played, 85 runs scored, 173 hits, 80 XBH, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .285/.343/.516/.859, 4.6 rWAR
Again, the numbers are very similar. Based on the similar numbers, I believe we have enough statistical evidence to more or less provide ball park figures of what one can expect from Josh next season, and beyond, wherever he, his wife, and God decide is the best place to play baseball for the next five years.
I will now provide what type of production a team can expect out of Josh Hamilton if they were to sign him to a 5 year $150 million dollar contract which Jon Heyman believes he will sign. Again, all I did was average the 7 player’s years, not including Pujols, by very simply adding up the total amount, and dividing the total by the number of players. Werth drops off in Year 3 from the equation, and Howard drops off in Year 4 because each has not played in that particular year of his contract yet. Year 1 was already provided.
119 games played, 70 runs scored, 121 hits, 51 XBH, 27 HR, 84 RBI, .281/.376/.517/.893, 2.3 rWAR
The numbers are continuing to decline as the players are beginning to experience injury problems because they are aging. Only 4 of the 7 players played more than 125 games in his second season of his deal. The rWAR has dropped 3 wins in two years.
105 games played, 46 runs scored, 100 hits, 38 XBH, 18 HR, 67 RBI, .252/.332/.443/.774, .3 rWAR
The third year is the worst statistical year as three of the players (Griffey, Soriano, and Giambi) all finish with negative rWARs. Lee played 160 games, but the next most in games played is Rodriguez with 137. Batting average, OBP, Slugging, and OPS has fallen for the third straight year.
119 games played, 62 runs scored, 107 hits, 46 XBH, 22 HR, 69 RBI, .260/.357/.495/.852, 1.5 rWAR
The numbers improve slightly, but not by very much. Lee actually had a rWAR of -2.4 in his 4th year of his deal. Michael Young was everyone’s favorite whipping boy this year, and even he had 38 XBH’s in his horrendous 2012.
126 games played, 65 runs scored, 117 hits, 50 XBH, 24 HR, 82 RBI, .259/.350/.484/.833, 1.7 rWAR
Giambi had the most productive 5th year as he had an OPS of .971. However, no player had a rWAR above 3.7.
5 Season average:
123 games played, 68 runs scored, 121 hits, 50 XBH, 25 HR, 80 RBI, .267/.357/.494/.850, 1.9 rWAR
Yes, this would be the average season one team is paying $30 million dollars a year if they choose to pony up the money and sign Josh. While these numbers are not exact, they give a good prediction of what is probable.
The most shocking number is a total of 9.6 total rWAR in 5 seasons. Meaning, if a team paid Josh Hamilton $150 million dollars over 5 seasons, the team would be paying $15,625,000 per win. Fans admire Josh for his incredible power, but only Jason Giambi averaged 30 home runs per season through the life of his contract. Chances are greater than zero that Josh would not hit as many home runs as he did in Texas.
Also, with Josh already being well known for his injury problems, including his caffeine issue in late September, signing Josh to a massive contract might not be wise based on the injury problems of the previous 30+ year old $100 million dollar players.
The numbers I have provided are only numbers, but they do speak of what Hamilton will more than likely become later in his career because the numbers I have provided are what the players averaged during their expensive contracts. Essentially, the deal will be for one highly productive first season, two mediocre seasons, and two very disappointing seasons. Signing players to a long term deal for one to three decent seasons is just not wise, just ask the Los Angeles Angels.
I am sure Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan, and the front office has done their due diligence in relations to the Josh Hamilton matter. However, based on past history, signing Josh Hamilton to a $100 million dollar deal would be a colossal mistake.
The safer and more intelligent move is to pursue a player like B.J. Upton who just turned 28, and is believed by Jon Heyman to be signed to a deal in the ballpark of 5 years and $60 million dollars. Upton is three years younger than Hamilton, strikes out a lot and has a lower OPS, but will cost $18 million dollars a year less that Hamilton will. Players such as Nick Swisher and AJ Pierzynski will also be available to fill the LH power bat void. Swisher can also hit from the right side of the plate as well. The Rangers could even use the extra money on a top of the rotation pitcher like Zack Greinke, or a solid #2 or #3 starter like Hiroki Kuroda.
While we do not know what will become of Josh Hamilton and the Rangers, one thing is certain, and that is the Hot Stove League is one of the most entertaining times of the year. The 2012 season might have ended in disappointing fashion for the Rangers, but things can turn around quickly with a great offseason. Fans should have complete faith in the organization based on their excellent track record that they will make the best decision for Texas Rangers in regards to Josh, and other players.
Follow Dustin Dietz on Twitter @DustinDietz18