Angels Take the Plunge and Sign Hamilton, Make Very Big Mistake

The Angels signed Josh Hamilton to a 5 year, $125 million deal today with a physical coming Friday. I wrote extensively about Hamilton last month and you can read what I think about him here.

The Angels, who had four outfielders before this deal, now have five. They also have Kendrys Morales as their DH who is blocked at 1B by a guy named Pujols. They have to trade at least one of these players. That’s fine. No big deal.

Trout in center. Hamilton in left. Trumbo in right. Or Bourjos? Or the $21 million Vernon Wells? I’m not sure what their plan is, but it’s a bad one no matter what.

The Angels didn’t need an outfielder. In fact, that was the thing they needed the least. They didn’t even need a bat. They needed starting pitching badly and still do. They lost out on Greinke because he was too expensive (but then signed a riskier player for the same AAV). They released Dan Haren. They traded Ervin Santana.

The Angels rotation is Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Tommy Hanson, Joe Blanton, and some other guy. I’m only convinced one of those guys is better than league average. Anibal Sanchez would have only cost them $15 million per season, which leaves another $10 million to spend on other upgrades.

I’m also not convinced the Angels get much better with Hamilton. He and Torii Hunter were probably equally as valuable this year, and the Angels said they didn’t want him. They were going to play Bourjos. Bourjos is an incredible, better than Mike Trout defender. He’s probably a 2-3 win player. Hamilton is only a 4-5 win guy. They’re spending $25 million to win two or three more games at the expense of the pitching staff that they could actually have upgraded.

Now maybe this is a prelude to a big deal for a pitcher on the trade market, but I’m skeptical. This feels like an f-you Rangers and Dodgers move. The Angels felt like they weren’t getting enough attention and they wanted a date to the dance. I can see Arte Moreno and Jerry Dipoto adding entries to the Mean Girls scrapbook right now.

The Angels don’t need Hamilton. They certainly don’t need Hamilton at $125 million. If his market collapsed, you might go for it, but he has to average 4-5 wins every season for this to payoff. I don’t think he can do that. Even if he does, the Angels have lots of outfielders who could put together seasons almost as good.

What they don’t have is a #2 or #3 starting pitcher. They spend $125 million on Josh Hamilton when they should have spent $90 million on Sanchez. I don’t think anyone should have paid Hamilton this much, but I really don’t think it should have been the Angels.

They either dramatically misunderstand Hamilton as a player or they think they needed to do something to keep up with the Jones’. Why offer him this deal? It doesn’t even look like anyone else was willing to go this high. The Angels paid market price or higher for a luxury player and it’s likely going to cost them a shot to improve their rotation.

I grade every trade and signing I write about, and I’m trying to decide how this ranks. Hamilton is a good player. But he is also an unusually risky player. He is old, injury prone, and has a history of substance abuse. He also has poor plate discipline, so when his bat slows down, he could really crumble. I think anyone who pays 5/125 for Hamilton is paying too much, but when you give him that deal and you don’t need him that seems like a big mistake.

At this point in time, given the context, and before we hear about a follow up move, I have to really nail the Angels here. This deal is that bad.

Grade: F

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