Josh Hamilton's price goes up with every big hit he delivers for the Texas Rangers, writes Carroll Rogers.
Payday coming for Josh Hamilton but maybe not from Texas Rangers
It is an interesting dichotomy for the Texas Rangers. The better centre fielder Josh Hamilton plays, the tougher it gets for the Rangers to keep him.
This week proved no less perplexing, when Hamilton became only the 16th player in major league history to hit four home runs in a game.
He nearly single-handedly beat the Baltimore Orioles 10-2 at Camden Yards. By the time he hit his fourth home run, even the Orioles fans were standing and applauding.
Hamilton, a four-time All-Star in his first four seasons with the Rangers and the 2010 American League MVP, can become a free agent at the end of the season. Contract discussions between Hamilton and the Rangers cooled in spring training, and soon after Hamilton said he would not give the Rangers a "hometown discount".
"I love Texas," Hamilton told reporters. "I love my fans. I love fans of the Rangers. I love the organisation. I love my teammates. I love everything about it. But I'm not going to sit here and say that I owe the Rangers."
Joey Votto, the Cincinnati Reds first baseman, signed a 10-year US$225 million (Dh825.75m) extension this spring. The Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols got a 10-year, $240m contract during the off-season.
Since Hamilton plays a more premium position, he could command $20-$25m annually.
The sticking point comes over the length of the contract. He is 31 and has had off-field problems with drug addiction. Also, Hamilton has missed significant time with injuries in three of his four seasons in Texas.
But this might be a special year for a special player. Entering the weekend, Hamilton was leading the AL in batting average (.395), home runs (15), and RBI (38).
He could have a shot at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 for the Boston Red Sox.
Hamilton won a batting title by hitting .350 in 2010. He led the AL in RBI (130) in 2008. He has never finished higher than fifth in home runs with 32 in 2010, but he is nearly halfway to that total in May.
Rangers, the two-time defending AL champions, have a $3 billion TV contract. They just spent $107m on Yu Darvish, the Japanese pitcher. They appear to have money to spend, but whether they spend it on Hamilton remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, Hamilton is not fretting over his future. The night after his four home runs, Hamilton and some teammates killed time during a rain delay by sliding across the tarpaulin in Baltimore.
"Other than being in the World Series, this is the biggest highlight of my career," Hamilton said after the four-homer game.