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.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.
The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.
Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.
Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”