With new deal, Hamilton eyes long Texas stay
Outfielder avoids hearing with two-year, $24 million contract
ARLINGTON -- After agreeing to a two-year, $24 million contract on Thursday, outfielder Josh Hamilton expressed hope that this pact will lead to a much longer deal that will keep him with the Rangers long after he becomes eligible for free agency at the end of the 2012 season."I want to be here for a long time," Hamilton said while sitting between club president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels at a news conference at the Ballpark in Arlington. "Hopefully, this will be just a drop in the bucket." "More than a drop," Ryan said with a smile. "Two drops?" Hamilton said, laughing. "That's undetermined just yet ... the size of the bucket," Ryan quipped. All jocularity aside, the Rangers still plan on trying to work out a long-term contract extension with Hamilton. But they at least covered his final two years of arbitration with this deal. Hamilton, represented by agent Mike Moye, was scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on Monday in Phoenix. "We all worked hard to get something done," Hamilton said. "Both sides worked hard to make it happen. When people come together, talk things out and respect each other, things happen. Things get resolved kind of easily. "I wanted to get this done before you go out and play. This deal allows me to do that. I can go play, have fun and stay away from walls." Hamilton agreed to a $3 million signing bonus, a $7.25 million contract for 2011 and a $13.75 million contract for 2012. He was seeking $12 million in arbitration and the Rangers were offering $8.7 million. "When we started talking this offseason, it was apparent both sides wanted to do something that would recognize Josh's importance to the club and his desire to be here for an extended period of time," Daniels said. "This gets us through the arbitration period. We're hoping it's an indication of a long-term relationship and two multiyear deals." The Rangers could have more discussions on a greater multiyear deal for Hamilton in Spring Training, later during the season or next offseason. "Obviously, anytime you can have a player of Josh's caliber in the organization for a long period of time, it's important," Ryan said. "There are not many clubs that have that opportunity." The biggest thing with Hamilton is keeping him healthy. He has suffered three significant injuries in the past two years crashing or falling into outfield walls, and all three occurred while he was playing center field. Manager Ron Washington said this winter that he would like to move Hamilton back to left field this season. Hamilton played both left and center in 2011. He started 87 games in left and 29 games in center during the regular season but was used exclusively in center during the playoffs. "I want to be whatever and wherever it makes our team better," Hamilton said. "If that's center field, it will be center field. If that's left field, it will be left field. I will play where I'm told. Honestly, you can get hurt anywhere. You can get hurt walking out of the dugout. You can't be scared of one position. I'll play anywhere." Hamilton missed most of September with two small fractures in his left rib cage but was still the American League Most Valuable Player in 2010. He was the AL batting champion with a club record .359 average while hitting 32 home runs and driving in 100 runs. He also led the league in slugging with a .633 percentage and was second with a .411 on-base percentage. He was a starter on the AL All-Star team for a third straight year, won his second Silver Slugger Award and was the Sporting News Major League Player of the Year. He was also the MVP of the AL Championship Series as the Rangers advanced to the World Series for the first time in club history. The Rangers have now agreed to contracts with all seven of their players who were eligible for arbitration. Pitchers C.J. Wilson, Mark Lowe and Darren O'Day, outfielders Nelson Cruz and David Murphy and catcher Mike Napoli previously agreed to contracts. The Rangers have not had a player go to arbitration since Lee Stevens in 2000.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.