Update: Looks like he's going to the Rangers. Full story with rolling updates here: Angels, Rangers nearing Josh Hamilton trade.
The Josh Hamilton era with the Angels could be coming to a sad and quick end in Los Angeles, according to Michael McCann of Sports Illustrated.
Team officials, including owner Arte Moreno and general manager Jerry DiPoto, appear displeased by Hamilton’s self-reported relapse in February and a subsequent decision by an arbitrator that Major League Baseball cannot punish Hamilton.
The Angels might also be skeptical that Hamilton, who underperformed at the plate during the 2013 and '14 seasons, will regain the hitting stroke that made him one of the most feared hitters in baseball from '08 to '12.
Ken Rosenthal has confirmed the report:
Ok, everyone is confirming the initial report:
Looks like Texas:
Rangers are close to trading for Josh Hamilton.... still a lot of legal work to be done... likely announced on Mondat sources say— TR Sullivan (@Sullivan_Ranger) April 24, 2015
How the Angels got here
Hamilton, rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, plans on resuming baseball activities, but the Angels front office does not want Hamilton on the field after Hamilton admitted to Major League Baseball that he relapsed. Despite the Angels' apparent wishes, an outside arbitrator ruled that Hamilton did not violate his treatment plan and cannot be suspended by MLB.
The 33-year-old is due $64.8 million from now until his contract ends in 2017. Hamilton was originally signed by the Angels in 2013 to a 5-year, $125 million contract after he spent five seasons with the Texas Rangers. Hamilton has had a long battle with drugs and relapsed twice before: once in 2009 and again in January of 2012.
Just days ago, a report from Ken Rosenthal had the Angels and Hamilton nearing a resolution to the dispute in question, which McCann's report doesn't necessarily contradict:
A deal between the Angels and Hamilton is not close, and as a result, the details of a potential settlement are not clear. Angels owner Arte Moreno made it clear he does not want Hamilton back with the club in 2015, and the process of moving him was once expected to be lengthy. The fact that the initial discussions are underway may suggest otherwise.
How Hamilton impacts them at the moment
In his absence, the Angels have struggled to find production out of the left-field spot with both Matt Joyce and Efren Navarro.
Navarro leads the two in batting average, only hitting .200 in eight games. Joyce has seen more of the playing time, playing in 14 games, but his batting average is a disappointing .143 with no home runs. Edit: Aaand apparently Navarro is already back in the minors. h/t Rev.
What happens next?
Even if he isn't what he used to be, it stands to reason that Josh Hamilton could resemble his 2014 form, when he hit .263 in 89 games with 10 home runs and 44 RBIs, although it seems like the Angels will take whatever measures they can to make sure Hamilton no longer plays for the City of Angels, having $64.8 million tied up until Hamilton's contract ends in 2017.
The talks of a buyout are on the table but the MLB player's union usually frowns upon buyouts, so a trade to an American League team in need of a designated hitter -- while the Angels eat a great portion of that contract -- seems most likely:
It is plausible that the Angels and Hamilton could agree to a buyout, but the Angels would likely have to pay him the vast majority of the $83 million he is still owed. One agent tells SI.com he believes the Angels would likely have to pay around 90 percent of the remainder of Hamilton's contract (meaning $75 million) in a buyout.
The MLPBA, sensitive to precedent, would only assent to a buyout if Hamilton were paid nearly in full. If Hamilton is bought out, he would be free to sign with any other ball club. For that reason, the Angels would clearly prefer to trade Hamilton and his contract instead.