When Major League Baseball teams get desperate, they tend to do stupid things. The Los Angeles Angels did one of those stupid things last week when they signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract.
According to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times, Hamilton's contract also includes a full no-trade clause:
The $10-million bonus in Josh Hamilton's contract with #Angels is payable up front. Hamilton gets luxury suite and full no-trade clause.— Mike DiGiovanna (@MikeDiGiovanna) December 16, 2012
In typical Angels fashion, this deal came almost out of nowhere. There were whispers shortly before the deal was announced that the Angels were involved, but nothing really substantial prior to that.
On the one hand, the Angels had to feel compelled to do something this offseason after losing Zack Greinke to the Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as seeing all the moves and headlines the Dodgers were getting under their new ownership.
Which Contract Is Worse?
On the other hand, what the Angels did by signing Hamilton is upgrade the area of their team that was already the strongest. The team finished in the top five in 2012 in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
Hamilton will upgrade the left field position, as long as he is able to stay in the outfield, and the Angels do need more production from that spot, as their left fielders hit just .249/.304/.467 in 2012.
However, to paraphrase something from a failed politician, what the Angels did is the equivalent of putting lipstick on a pit bull. They are trying to get people focused on their offense, instead of looking at the ineptitude of the pitching.
Jered Weaver is a horse at the top of the rotation, so there is no concern there, but once you get past the No. 1, there are a lot more questions than answers.
C.J. Wilson had a 5.54 ERA in the second half of the season. He did have surgery after the season to remove bone spurs, so perhaps he can be the pitcher who had a 2.43 ERA in the first half once again.
They acquired Tommy Hanson from Atlanta for Jordan Walden, though the reasons for that still aren't entirely clear. They traded a potential impact reliever who isn't arbitration-eligible until 2014 for a starting pitcher whose stuff and performance have drastically declined over the last four seasons and who is going to get a raise through arbitration.
If that's not enough, the Angels also signed Joe Blanton, who gave up 29 home runs in 191 innings last season to fill out the rotation.
Hamilton does nothing to change the Angels' inability to prevent runs. And he is being paid like one of the five-best players in the game, at least based on average annual salary, enough though he hit a paltry .257 with a .329 on-base percentage last season after his four-homer game (per Mark Simon of ESPN.com):
Josh Hamilton hit .257/.329/.515 with 29 HR and 141 K in 456 AB following his 4-HR game last season— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) December 13, 2012
Plus, if you recall the way Hamilton played down the stretch, he looked like he would rather be doing anything else. He showed no effort in letting a ball drop in the final game of the season against Oakland that determined the American League West champion. And in the one-game playoff against Baltimore, he made four outs on just eight pitches.
When he is at the top of his game, Hamilton is one of the best players in the game. But he is also a 31-year-old injury-prone outfielder who looked lost down the stretch heading into his free agency.
The Angels paid a steep price for Hamilton in order to get their headlines and avoid losing everything this offseason, but it does not solve the problems this team had heading into the offseason.
Like the Albert Pujols contract a year ago, this deal with Hamilton will look like an albatross long before it expires. The best news to take away from it is that it is "only" five years.