Josh Hamilton, with all of one minor-league at-bat in 2016, has been placed on unconditional release waivers by the Texas Rangers. No one is going to claim him; he hasn’t hit well or been healthy in a couple of years, and he’s still owed about $28 million this season and next. But this may not be the end of one of the more turbulent careers in baseball history—just by releasing him, the Rangers are signaling their future plans for him.
Hamilton missed all of this season after undergoing three reconstructive knee surgeries in nine months, the most recent in June. But he’s still got one more year left on the five-year, $125 million contract he signed with Anaheim, and the Rangers are hopeful they’ll get a full season out of it. As explained by the Dallas Morning News, by releasing Hamilton before September 1, the Rangers can sign him to a minor-league deal and call him up any time. If they had released him after September 1, they would have had to wait until May 15, 2017, to call him up.
“We’ve talked about the possibility with him,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “He understands what the move means and why we did it. I don’t know how it will play out, but he’s got family and community reasons to be here. There is mutual desire if things continue to check out to continue the relationship.”
Hamilton has said he’s willing to come to spring training and try to earn a minor-league contract. The Rangers haven’t promised anything, but there’s no risk for them: the Angels would still be on the hook for $22 million of the $24 million Hamilton is due next year. The Angels, you’ll remember, paid Texas to take Hamilton off their hands after things went sour following a drug-and-alcohol relapse and the revelation that Anaheim had lobbied for a lengthy suspension to get out from under his contract.