Once upon a time the Rangers regularly avoided playing Josh Hamilton in center field because they hoped moving to a corner spot would help keep him healthy, but those plans are out the window now.
Hamilton is slated to be the primary center fielder for the first time since 2009 and because he prefers center field that decision is fine with the former MVP, but he also suggested that perhaps the Rangers’ changing their minds has to do with his impending free agency:
I don’t know, you think it’s got anything to do with free agency and get as much out of me as they can before they get rid of me?
Hamilton previously made headlines for saying that he didn’t owe the Rangers anything in contract negotiations, so he was quick to make it clear that the “get as much out of me as they can before they get rid of me” comment was a joke.
Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas notes that Hamilton “made that comment with a big grin on his face” and then followed it up by saying:
I was just kidding. I was just kidding. I was just kidding. Kidding, kidding, kidding, kidding.
Kidding or not, there’s probably some truth behind the comment, particularly since there’s speculation that Hamilton’s injury history and off-field issues have made the Rangers extremely hesitant to sign him to a long-term deal.
Much like a team being more willing to ride a free agent-to-be starting pitcher for high pitch counts before he hits the open market keeping Hamilton healthy long term may not be the Rangers’ problem beyond this season.