Josh Hamilton could be back in the Texas Rangers’ organization by Monday if the club and the Los Angeles Angels complete a trade they have been discussing for the past several days.
Sources have confirmed that the talks have progressed far beyond the feeling-out stages and are to the point where players and dollars are being discussed. Various forms of the deal have included players going from the Rangers to the Angels, but the talks had moved toward no players being involved before the first pitch of the Rangers-Angels series Friday night.
Two reports suggested that the Rangers would take on no more than $15 million of the $83 million owed to Hamilton this season and the next two. Any deal involving money requires the approval of the commissioner’s office.
Club officials declined comment, but Rangers players who were Hamilton’s teammates before he bolted after the 2012 season were on board with him returning to Globe Life Park.
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They aren’t sure if Hamilton, now 34 and coming off a series of injuries, a relapse and an impending divorce, can be the player he was when he won the 2010 American League MVP and hit 42 home runs in 2012, but they will embrace whatever he has to give them.
“If he’s one of our teammates, whoever is in this clubhouse is going to support him no matter what,” third baseman Adrian Beltre said.
“If he comes here, we hope he’s healthy. We hope his mind is in a good position and he has the support that he needs to be the Josh that we all know he can be, productive. The Josh who helped us go to the World Series in 2011, the Josh who was the club MVP the last three years he was here.”
Hamilton is on the disabled list after having surgery on his right shoulder Feb. 3. He would almost certainly be sent on a rehab assignment, either to Double A Frisco or Triple A Round Rock, before joining the Rangers’ active roster.
The Rangers would also try to recreate the support system he had while with them from 2008 to 2012, especially after he admitted to relapsing with cocaine in February. He had two accountability partners with the Rangers, and the second, Shayne Kelley, would likely return to that role.
Hamilton has been rehabilitating from his operation in Houston, where he also suffered his relapse. Only last weekend, it was discovered that he has filed for divorce from his wife, Katie, and isn’t permitted access to their home in Westlake.
Only seven players on the Rangers’ current 25-man roster have played with Hamilton, though injured pitchers Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Yu Darvish and Martin Perez along with infielder Jurickson Profar also played with him.
But the belief is that Hamilton would be at ease only with the Rangers after never feeling that comfort level he had with them in Anaheim. The situation with the Angels has turned particularly ugly since an independent arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate the terms of his treatment program and would not face punishment.
Angels owner Arte Moreno, the driving force in signing Hamilton, would not guarantee that Hamilton would ever play again for the Angels, and club officials expressed their dismay that Hamilton would not be penalized.
Not so coincidentally, the Angels are on the hook for $83 million through 2017 after signing him in December 2012 to a five-year, $125 million contract knowing full well the risk that comes with someone stricken with the illness of addiction.
A handful of Angels players saw Hamilton last week as they traveled to Houston for a series against the Astros and were impressed with the shape he was in and his desire to get back on the field.
“If he’s back on the field that’s good for him,” left-hander C.J. Wilson said. “I think it’s good for baseball if he’s back on the field. I think no matter what the situation is, Josh is going to pick up a 35-inch bat and go swing. That’s what he’s good at, and I think that’s what he needs to be doing right now.”
The Rangers twice went down the relapse road with Hamilton, in 2009 and 2012, after public missteps with alcohol. There’s a level of concern about another relapse, but not as much as many might expect.
“I don’t know exactly what he needs to be better or needs to be more comfortable wherever he is,” Beltre said. “If it happens, we’re going to do the best to keep him focused on baseball.
“Who are we to ask him to say something that did not happen with the club? We all know Josh and his history. Like people say, it’s a disease, right? Who are we to judge on that? We might ask a question as a teammate, but I don’t think we’re going to stop him and say, ‘Hey, you need to explain what happened?’”
The Rangers and Angels discussed a Hamilton trade during the winter meetings, news that general manager Jon Daniels quickly downplayed. Also during the off-season, a source said that the Rangers wouldn’t take Hamilton back if the Angels just gave him to them.
The Rangers won’t be getting him for free if the current trade talks are consummated, but the club has moved past any hesitancy it was feeling over the winter. His former teammates are ready to take him back.
“I love Josh,” right-hander Colby Lewis said. “I loved him when he was here. I was sad to see him go. The possibility of us getting him back I think excites the clubhouse. I’m all for it.”
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760