Josh Hamilton’s 5 year, $125M contract with the Los Angeles Angels did more than just take the biggest name of this year’s free agent class off the board. By going to a division rival, a rival who was already well-stocked, Hamilton shifted the balance of power from his old team, the Rangers, to his new one.
Putting Josh Hamilton in the middle of the batting order with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout makes the Angels, who finished 16 games over .500 in 2012 but still missed the playoffs, the AL west favorites in 2013. Not the Rangers and not the defending champion A’s.
A surprise player in the Hamilton sweepstakes was Seattle, another AL west club, and one whose organizational strength is starting pitching. The Mariners pictured a lineup with Hamilton and Jesus Montero in the middle scoring runs for Felix Hernandez and some of the club’s young pitching prospects in the near future. In a deep division, Seattle was looking to make a quantum leap to compete.
It didn’t happen. Arte Moreno and his deep pockets swooped in, Hamilton never gave the Rangers a chance to match the offer and now it is up to Nolan Ryan and his Texas leadership to respond, if they want to get back to winning division titles and making World Series appearances.
Or is it?
As Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports points out, there are some risks in Anaheim. Hamilton’s injuries and off the field problems, Pujols’ age and the questionable pitching staff behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson are among them.
Nevertheless, the gauntlet has been thrown down. The Angels had it, they lost it, and they want it back. Badly. Seattle wanted in, but they were left on the sidelines. And ignore the A’s at your own peril. They won 94 games and took the division crown with a lot of youth that gained a year’s experience in a pennant race. The action in the AL west will be hotter than ever in 2013.