Shocker: Josh Hamilton signs a five-year, $125 million deal with the Angels

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The hot stove season always takes unexpected turns, and this afternoon it took the most unexpected turn we’ve seen in some time.  Seemingly out of nowhere the Los Angeles Angels swooped in and signed Josh Hamilton.  Legendary L.A. radio man Joe McDonnell had the first news that a deal with close. Within an hour it was reported by multiple sources, starting with ESPN Dallas, that the Angels and Hamilton had reached deal.  Fox’s Jon Paul Morosi was the first to report that it was a five-year deal. The money: $125 million.

This makes it two years running that the Angels have signed the best available free agent hitter, with Albert Pujols coming into the fold.  It also marks the second straight year that the Angels have signed away the Rangers top departing free agent, with C.J. Wilson heading to the Angels last year as well.  The year before that Mike Napoli made a circuitous journey from Anaheim to the Rangers, helping Texas win the pennant.

This is the best rivalry in baseball now and it’s not even close.  Heck, maybe the second best rivalry — or rivalry to be — involves the Angels and the Dodgers.  Each L.A. team is lapping the field in terms of big money signings, with each fighting to become or remain the darlings of the nation’s second largest media market. It had appeared that the newly-free-spending Dodgers were regaining that title for keeps, but with Hamilton in the fold down in Orange County, the war for the hearts and minds of L.A. baseball fans is ON.

With the caveat that, yes, we said this last year too, it’s probably safe to say that the Angels are the favorites in the AL West. Their potential lineup is fantastic:

Trout CF
Callaspo 3B
Pujols 1B
Hamilton RF
Morales DH
Trumbo LF
Kendrick 2B
Iannetta C
Aybar SS

Or Trumbo could play third base with Hamilton in right, Trout in left and Peter Bourjos in center. And Vernon Wells is still knocking around. The point is, no matter what Mike Scioscia does, he has plenty of options to choose from. More importantly, so does GM Jerry Dipoto, who could now deal Trumbo or Bourjos for pitching help. R.A. Dickey, anyone?

Not that we can crown anyone just yet.  Again, we thought the Angels won it all with the Pujols and Wilson signings last year, and that didn’t work out.  And let’s remember, with respect to players they have in common — Mike Napoli and C.J. Wilson — the Rangers have done a pretty good job of out-evaluating the Angels over the past couple of years. Of course, that was before the Angels turned over their front office.

But no matter what happens, the AL West just got a lot more fun, and it already was the most fun division in baseball.

Report: Cardinals to sign Paul Goldschmidt to five-year contract extension

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Extension season continues. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Cardinals and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are close to an agreement on a five-year extension. The value is believed to be around $130 million, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goldschmidt was set to become a free agent after the season.

The Cardinals acquired Goldschmidt, 31, from the Diamondbacks in December in exchange for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, Andy Young, and a 2019 competitive balance round B pick. The slugger is a six-time All-Star, a three-time Gold Glove Award winner, and a four-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Goldschmidt owns a career .297/.398/.532 triple-slash line along with 209 home runs, 710 RBI, 709 runs scored, and 124 stolen bases. He is also well-regarded for his defense at first base. As a result, he has accumulated 40.3 Wins Above Replacement over eight seasons, according to Baseball Reference.

With Goldschmidt in place, the Cardinals are set at first base for the foreseeable future. Though Goldschmidt got off to a slow start last season, carrying an OPS barely above .700 into June, he recovered and finished with a .922 OPS. That two-month blip aside, there’s no reason to think Goldschmidt’s production is about to fall off anytime soon.