That was the 2010 American League MVP’s message to the Rangers on Monday.
“Free agency is free agency,” Josh Hamilton told ESPN’s Jim Bowden on SiriusXM radio. “If they sign me now, it’d probably cost less. If they sign me there (free agency), it’d cost more. So we’ll see.
“Obviously, I told the Rangers that they get first shot, and I mean that. I have loyalty to the Rangers. They’ve been good to me and my family, and it’s been a good relationship.”
It was labeled a mutual decision when the Rangers and Hamilton halted contract extension talks following the outfielder’s alcohol relapse last month, but from the sound of things, it was definitely more the Rangers’ call than Hamilton’s.
Hamilton is one of the game’s most talented players, but he’s entering his age-31 season and he’s played 150 games just once in his career. Even if one wants to discount his past substance abuse problems, he’s still a risk because of his injury history. It’s not all that often that players become more durable in their 30s.
It’s unclear exactly what Hamilton is looking for to forgo free agency next winter. He’s making $13.75 million this year as part of a two-year, $24 million contract. The Rangers might be amenable to spending $16 million-$18 million per year on him for the next three or four seasons. Going any longer than that would simply be too risky.
The Blue Jays announced on Friday that the club acquired outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Cardinals in exchange for pitcher Dominic Leone and minor league pitcher Conner Greene.
Grichuk, 26, became expendable when the Cardinals acquired Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins. With veteran Dexter Fowler in right field and Tommy Pham — who finished 11th in NL MVP Award balloting last season — in center, Grichuk was effectively pushed to the bench. He will get a shot at regular playing time in an outfield corner with the Jays. Grichuk has had solid numbers since debuting in 2014, but he hasn’t been able to recapture the magic of his 2015 campaign. Last year, he hit .238/.285/.473 with 22 home runs and 59 RBI in 442 plate appearances.
Grichuk will earn $2.8 million this season and will be eligible for arbitration for two more years before becoming a free agent.
Leone, 26, posted an impressive 2.56 ERA with an 81/23 K/BB ratio across 70 1/3 innings last season. The right-hander will earn $1.085 million this season and then will become arbitration-eligible for the next three years. Leone certainly helps bolster the Cardinals’ bullpen and may work his way up to high-leverage innings behind closer Luke Gregerson.
Greene, 22, was selected by the Blue Jays in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. This past season, with Double-A New Hampshire, Greene compiled a 5.29 ERA with a 92/83 K/BB ratio in 132 2/3 innings. He throws hard, but control has been a big issue for the right-hander throughout his minor league career. The Cardinals may think they can help turn him around.