The truth is Josh Hamilton hasn't been good since he dropped that fly ball in the final game of the 2012 regular season, when the Texas Rangers completed a final-week collapse, blowing a 5-1 lead to lose the game and the AL West title to the A's. Hamilton signed with the Angels that offseason to a five-year, $125 million mega-contract that has gone down as a mega-bust.
He lasted just two seasons with the Angels, was traded to the Rangers -- with the Angels picking up nearly all of the remaining money on his contract -- then missed much of 2015 with various injuries and all of 2016 after reconstructive knee surgery. Hamilton was actually released by the Rangers in August, with the idea they would sign him to a minor-league deal. That was finalized on Tuesday, with Hamilton having the right to request his release on April 1 if he's not on the major league roster, per MLB Network's Jon Heyman.
Obviously, Hamilton has to prove in spring training he's healthy enough, even if that's just DHing. There is a potential opening there since the Rangers have yet to fill an opening at first base and DH. Talks with Mike Napoli have apparently stalled. Right now, the Rangers would line up with Nomar Mazara, Carlos Gomez and Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield, with Joey Gallo, Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar the options at first base and DH.
Even if Hamilton is healthy, however, what are the odds he can produce? He's played just 137 games in three seasons, slashing .260/.318/.423, well below the 2016 DH average of .255/.328/.455. Rangers DHs hit just .241/.313/.391, and considering Gallo hit .240 with 150 strikeouts in 102 games at Triple-A, some of the shine has been lost on his future. The power and walks are still there, but the excessive strikeout rate is worrisome. There's still some Chris Davis-like upside there, but it's easy to foresee a return trip to Round Rock. Or maybe Gallo is given the job at first base with the right-handed Rua serving as a platoon partner either for Gallo or Hamilton, with Profar serving as a utility guy.
Hamilton finished fifth in the MVP voting for the Rangers in 2012, but his decline since then has been predicated not just on injuries, but on a poor approach at the plate. He's always had one of the highest chase rates on pitches outside the strike zone; he was so talented he was able to overcome that earlier in his career, but his swing-and-miss rate escalated through the years:
2010: 26.3 percent
2011: 26.6 percent
2012: 36.3 percent
2013: 31.4 percent
2014: 38.1 percent
2015: 36.2 percent
Among players with at least 500 plate appearances since 2014, only Miguel Sano and Chris Carter have a higher swing-and-miss rate than Hamilton, and only Jimmy Paredes has a higher percentage of swinging strikes. To make up for that, you have to draw a walks and hit a lot of home runs, and we know Hamilton doesn't walk much.
Hamilton turns 36 in May, has been injured, probably won't help much on defense and hasn't really hit that well since 2012. I'd suggest the odds of Hamilton contributing to the Rangers in 2017 are slim. Their best option is still to sign Napoli and let Gallo and Rua platoon.