Josh Hamilton’s four-homer game last night puts him here as of this morning:
.406/.458/.840 with 14 homers and 36 RBI.
That places him well ahead of everyone in all three triple-crown categories and — close your ears, stats people — on pace to break the single-season home run record and RBI record, all while matching Ted Williams’ average from 1941.
No, of course he’s not going to do that because baseball doesn’t work that way and mid-May through late September still count in the stat-lines. But the magnitude of awesomeness emanating from Hamilton’s bat is something to behold. For a player who always seems a hair’s breadth away from disaster, Hamilton is, so far anyway, putting up one of the better contract walk-years in recent memory.
Which makes it understandable that a lot of people are talking about his contract status this morning. He’s poised to be a free agent at the end of the season. He’s kicking butt and taking names. But that’s exactly why the Rangers should do absolutely nothing about his contract at the moment.
It’s negotiation 101: you do not start talks with a person at the moment their leverage and stock is at its absolute highest. You wait for things to settle down and for your position to improve. Hamilton will not, shockingly, hit four home runs a game that often. And if history is any guide, he will spend some time on the disabled list this year, reminding everyone that he is a risky investment even when he’s playing his best. And that’s before we get into his substance abuse history.
So shelve the contract discussions, everyone. Nothing productive can come of them for the time being because the Rangers aren’t dumb and they’re not going to get swept up in some sort of “Oh noes! We might lose Josh Hamilton!” panic just because he had a huge game. To the contrary, they’re going to wait until things calm down and the risks and rewards of signing Hamilton can be reasonably assessed.
In the meantime, they’re gonna enjoy the Josh Hamilton laser show. Just like everyone, with the exception of the opposing pitchers, should too.
The Associated Press is reporting that the Cubs and starter Jake Arrieta have avoided arbitration, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season. That marks the highest salary on a one-year deal for a pitcher with four years of service, the AP notes. Arrieta and the Cubs were set to go before an independent arbitrator but now can simply focus on the season ahead.
Arrieta, 29, is in his second of three years of arbitration eligibility. He had filed for $13 million while the Cubs countered at $7.5 million. The $5.5 million gap was the largest among players who did not come to terms with their respective teams by the January deadline. The $10.7 million salary is $450,000 above the midpoint between the two submitted figures.
Arrieta won the National League Cy Young Award for his performance this past season, narrowly edging out Zack Greinke, then with the Dodgers. Arrieta led the majors with 22 wins, four complete games, and three shutouts. With that, he compiled a 1.77 ERA and a 236/48 K/BB ratio across 229 innings.
Once a top prospect in the Orioles’ minor league system, Arrieta struggled in the majors but found immediate success with the Cubs in 2013 after the O’s traded him along with Pedro Strop in exchange for Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman.
Per Baseball America’s Matt Eddy, the Giants have signed infielder Conor Gillaspie to a minor league deal. Gillaspie was selected by the Giants in the supplemental round of the 2008 draft, then was traded to the White Sox in February 2013.
Gillaspie, 28, hit a meager .228/.269/.359 with four home runs and 24 RBI in 253 plate appearances between the White Sox and Angels during the 2015 season. Almost all of his playing time has come at third base but he can also play first base if needed.
The Giants, thin on depth, will allow Gillaspie to audition in spring training for a spot on the 25-man roster.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that free agent reliever Joe Nathan, recovering from Tommy John surgery, plans to pitch in 2016 according to his agent Dave Pepe. According to Pepe, Nathan’s workouts are “going well” and the right-hander is “definitely planning on playing this year.”
Nathan, 41, got the final out on Opening Day (April 6) against the Twins before going on the disabled list with a flexor strain in his right elbow, causing him to miss the next 161 games. He will likely be able to contribute out of the bullpen in late May or early June if he has no setbacks. On a minor league deal or incentive-laden major league deal, Nathan could make for a low-risk gamble.
Over a 15-season career that dates back to 1999 (he did not pitch in the majors in 2001 or 2010), Nathan has 377 saves with a 2.89 ERA and a 967/340 K/BB ratio over 917 innings.
On Thursday, we learned that the Diamondbacks were still considering free agent reliever Tyler Clippard. You can add the Rays to the list as well, per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays traded lefty reliever Jake McGee to the Rockies in exchange for outfielder Corey Dickerson in late January, so Clippard would be able to slot right in behind closer Brad Boxberger. Clippard, 30, compiled a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts and 31 walks over 71 innings in a season split between the Athletics and Mets. The strikeout rate was at its lowest since the right-hander become a full-time reliever in 2009, and his walk rate was at its highest since 2010, which may be a factor in his still being a free agent in February.