With Josh Hamilton gone, Angels need help out of left field
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Josh Hamilton's teammates with the Los Angeles Angels all seemed to hope the outfielder would shake off his latest troubles and return to stardom in their lineup.
Moments after Hamilton was traded back to the Texas Rangers on Monday, the Angels headed off on their next road trip knowing they'll have to fix their slow-starting season without him - and without a clear replacement for him in left field.
''I think it has the best possible ending for all parties,'' Angels closer Huston Street said Tuesday in Oakland. ''Josh is where he clearly wants to be, or feels the most comfortable and has had a lot of success. The organization, they worked that out with him. That's good for everybody. For the guys in here, I don't think it was necessarily a distraction.''
Mike Trout and C.J. Wilson were among several Angels who remained passionately supportive of Hamilton while team management publicly ripped the former AL MVP following his latest struggle with sobriety this spring.
Manager Mike Scioscia said he thought Hamilton should have expressed ''remorse'' to those teammates who so graciously stuck by him.
''For him not to show at least a little remorse toward his teammates I just think is wrong,'' Scioscia said. ''It's unfortunate he had his relapse but I know we supported him in every aspect whatever his needs were. Just in hearing some of his comments, the one thing I think is sad and I'm a little bit disappointed is the fact that there wasn't any accountability most importantly to his teammates.''
When news of Hamilton's imminent departure leaked last weekend, the Angels reacted mostly with muted disappointment, finally understanding the depth of owner Arte Moreno's displeasure with their underperforming teammate.
''From the moment he got here, there has been turbulence,'' Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said. ''If I could put my finger on why there was such a struggle, we could have corrected it.''
Instead, the free-spending Moreno addressed it with money. Just two years after he bestowed a $125 million contract on Hamilton, the owner sent the slugger to an AL West rival. The Angels are responsible for $105 million over the five-year deal, with Texas paying $6 million and Hamilton giving up $14 million.
''Why would it come back to haunt us?'' Dipoto asked. ''We're comfortable with the decision here.''
With this off-field drama finally finished, the Angels can focus on fixing their problems on the field. After ending their five-year playoff absence last season, the Angels are off to yet another middling start at 9-10 heading into Tuesday's game against the Athletics.
''It was tough for us, because you wanted to show support for Josh as a friend and as a teammate but you also play for the Angels organization and you respect that,'' said Street, who is currently working to negotiate what he hopes is his own new multiyear deal with the Angels.
''You want to go out on the field and win games for your teammates and for the name across your chest. The way it has worked out, I think everybody can just move forward in a positive way. I was happy to see the resolution turn out the way it did.''
The Angels will get almost nothing from Texas for Hamilton, so the most tangible asset from the trade is increased space under the luxury tax threshold.
That should allow Moreno and Dipoto to address one of the biggest potential problems with the deal for Angels fans: While Hamilton was thoroughly disappointing for the Angels, they don't have a better player to take over in left field.
Los Angeles acquired Matt Joyce from Tampa Bay in the offseason, while Collin Cowgill and Efren Navarro also have played in left field at times in April. Joyce is off to a miserable 8-for-57 start in Anaheim, but Navarro and Cowgill also can't top .200 yet.
The Angels are 19th in runs scored this season after leading the majors with 773 last year. Hamilton played only a supporting role in that success, and his absence means much less to the current team's struggles than the offseason trade of hits leader Howie Kendrick to the Dodgers for pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, who is in the minors.
Hamilton ranks right near the top of a long list of high-priced failures for the Angels, who have a franchise tradition of overpaying for overripe talent:
- Mo Vaughn got a six-year, $80 million deal in late 1998, but provided only two solid offensive years before missing an entire season with injuries and eventually getting traded.
- Gary Matthews Jr. got a five-year, $50 million contract from Moreno in 2007, but never batted above .252 in three seasons before the Angels ate $21.5 million to ship him to the Mets.
- The Angels acquired Vernon Wells from Toronto in 2011, giving up slugging catcher Mike Napoli for a player still owed most of a back-loaded $126 million contract. Wells stumbled through two awful seasons before the Angels ate another $28.1 million to send him to the Yankees.
- One high-risk contract has been decent so far: Albert Pujols is still manning first base for the Angels in the fourth season of his 10-year, $240 million free-agent deal, although his steady hitting doesn't compare to his St. Louis heyday. But Pujols will be 41 years old by the time the Angels are finally free of their obligations to the slugger.
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland contributed to this report.