Josh Hamilton and Rangers agree to two-year, $24 million deal

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Josh Hamilton and the Rangers won’t have to worry about arbitration again, as the two sides have agreed to a two-year contract. Jon Heyman of SI.com reports that the deal is worth $24 million.

Hamilton was seeking $12 million for this season, while the Rangers countered at $8.7 million. That makes the midpoint $10.35 million and he likely would have been in line for an even bigger figure next season, so the contract is a fair one for both sides that gives the Rangers some cost certainty in case he has another MVP campaign.

And perhaps just as importantly, it also allows the Rangers to avoid bringing up his history of substance abuse in a hearing, which potentially could have gotten very ugly.

If they hadn’t reached an agreement there was a hearing scheduled for Monday, but various reports during the past couple weeks have consistently said negotiations were going smoothly. Hamilton, who hit .359 with 32 homers, 100 RBIs, and a league-leading 1.044 OPS in 133 games last season, will be 32 years old when he’s eligible for free agency following the 2012 season.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

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The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.