During a 30-minute re-introduction news conference Monday, newly re-acquired Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said he wanted only to look forward.
But he couldn’t help himself from looking back for a minute.
Hamilton said, in retrospect, he regretted leaving the Rangers after the 2012 season for a five-year, $125 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels.
“If I could change the past, I would not have left,” he said. “But you can only learn from it and I’ve learned a lot the last couple of years.”
Hamilton, who starred at Raleigh’s Athens Drive High, was acquired in a complicated deal Monday. The Angels, according to sources, are taking on more than $65million of Hamilton’s remaining $80million salary.
The deal, which had to be approved by Major League Baseball and the players’ association, came more than two weeks after Angels owner Arte Moreno strongly indicated Hamilton never would play again for Los Angeles.
“It didn’t work out on the field. It didn’t work out off the field,” Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said during a conference call. “From beginning to end, this is not what we planned. This is not the way we envisioned any of this playing out from the moment we signed Josh. … At the end of the day, this is what we felt this was best for the team, that we were able to clear the air, that we were able to move forward with the group of 25 that we have on the field today.”
Hamilton has rewritten the terms of his contract to eliminate about $7million in salary that will be explained as the difference in cost of living between California, where there is a 13.3 percent top income tax, and Texas where there is none. The Rangers are absorbing about $4million through 2016; they will take on $2million more if Hamilton does not opt out of his contract for 2017.
On the 15-day disabled list while recovering from offseason right shoulder surgery, Hamilton took a physical and will report Tuesday to the Rangers’ spring training complex in Surprise, Ariz. He will spend the next 10 days there working out. He then will join Class AAA Round Rock for a rehab assignment. Texas general manager Jon Daniels said it is likely Hamilton could be activated in “mid- to late-May.” The Rangers will be home from May 11 through 17.
Daniels also said Hamilton’s arrival will not necessarily block the route of prospect Ryan Rua, who currently is on the DL with a fracture in his foot. Daniels said he expects Rua, who is out another three-four weeks, will play a significant role on this team.
Daniels said the Rangers’ decision to acquire Hamilton, which was a three- to four-week process, was driven by baseball needs rather than humanitarian desires. Texas’ offense is struggling and Hamilton, if healthy, could provide a spark. Hamilton returns to the team he helped make consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and ’11. Hamilton was the 2010 AL Most Valuable Player and an All-Star each of his five seasons with Texas (2008-12).
“Josh, from the monent he arrived here, there’s been turbulence,” Dipoto said. “If I could put my finger on why Josh had a tough time here, we may have been able to help him solve those issues.”
In his first stint with Texas, Hamilton hit .305 with 152 homers and 506 RBIs in 647 games. He led the majors with a .359 batting average in 2010, the season he was also the MVP of the AL Championship Series.
But he never came close to duplicating that during his time with Los Angeles.
In 220 games the past two seasons with the Angels, Hamilton had 31 homers and 123 RBIs. He was limited to 89 games because of injuries last year, which ended with him going hitless in 13 at-bats as the Angels were swept in three games by Kansas City in the AL division series.
Hamilton, who will turn 34 on May 21, always felt comfortable with the Rangers, a team prepared for and experienced in dealing with his unique situation.
The Rangers did “due diligence” on Hamilton, Daniels said and the club, working with Hamilton, will put a support system in place for him.
The support system will be headed by Shayne Kelley, who served as Hamilton’s loosely titled “accountability partner” for the 2012 season. Kelley is expected to live and travel with Hamilton, who is going through a divorce from his wife of 10 years, but he will not have a role with the club. Kelley was in the Rangers’ dugout for the 2012 season as a major league staff assistant.
Hamilton also cited televangelist James Robison, a longtime friend, and Chad Harrington, another friend with whom Hamilton has lived for most of the past three months while recovering from shoulder surgery.
“At the end of the day, this is was a pretty easy decision for us,” Daniels said. “This is about a player we think can be productive and help us win games. A healthy Josh Hamilton in a good state of mind – where we believe he is – can help our offense and help us win baseball games. It was nothing more, nothing less, a pretty easy decision from a baseball standpoint.” The Associated Press contributed.