ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Feeling “a little upset” that Texas didn’t move quickly enough to re-sign him, free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton donned a Los Angeles Angels jersey on Saturday after finalizing a $125 million, five-year contract that he called a new chapter in his life.
“I started off with the Devil Rays and now I’m an Angel,” said the five-time All-Star who was drafted by Tampa Bay before making his major league debut with Cincinnati in 2007.
Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, joins a batting order that already includes Albert Pujols and AL Rookie of the Year Mike Trout. The 31-year-old Hamilton hit a career-high 43 home runs last season and batted .285 with 128 RBIs in 148 games.
“To get a guy like Josh and combine him with Albert is going to give us building blocks for what we hope is years to come,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We can’t wait.”
Neither can dozens of red-clad Angels fans, who lined up outside a restaurant where Hamilton was introduced. The team had a table set up for ticket sales and he signed autographs on his way inside.
Hamilton’s $25 million average salary matches Philadelphia first baseman Ryan Howard for the second-highest in baseball, trailing only Alex Rodriguez’s $27.5 million average with the New York Yankees.
“It was a great investment,” said Angels owner Arte Moreno, who insisted he wasn’t trying to keep up with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are on track to surpass the New York Yankees as baseball’s biggest spending team in 2013.
“I think it’s just great,” he said about the Dodgers’ spending spree this week that got them former Angels pitcher Zack Greinke for a $147 million, six-year deal and South Korean left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin for a $36 million, six-year contract.
“Why would I ever want to wish something bad on someone? I really liked Greinke, but you make a decision how much you’re going to spend on one player. We said we’re going to get a couple relievers and a pitcher. I personally can’t wait to play them.”
Hamilton agreed to the deal with the Angels on Wednesday after having talked with them since the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
“They like to get after it,” he said.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels had hoped to re-sign Hamilton, who led Texas to consecutive World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. He said he was disappointed the Rangers never got a chance to match any offer during the process, as they had expected, or be contacted before Hamilton agreed with another team.
“I gave them everything I had for five years,” Hamilton said. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little upset they didn’t put the press on.”
Hamilton’s wife, Katie, spoke up and compared the situation to dating.
“We were with them for five years. If you’re going to date someone, you make it known and official pretty quick,” she said. “They let us date other teams and Josh had said he would give them first chance and they didn’t (make a move).”
Hamilton interjected, saying, “She said, `You should have put a ring on it.”‘
He said he met with Daniels a week earlier and “told him where my heart was. I was feeling like it was time for me to move on in general. There was no specific thing, like I’m upset or anything like that. It was just time to move on.”
The slugger was considered a risk by some teams because of his history of alcohol and substance abuse, which derailed his career before his surge with the Rangers over the past five seasons. Hamilton had a relapse with alcohol last January and another one in 2009.
“I have a past history of making mistakes with drugs and alcohol, drinking twice in seven years, which is not good for me,” he said. “They’re going to help me with my support system to put things in place that I had with the Rangers. Nothing that is straining the organization or the clubhouse.”
However, Moreno said there’s no special protection for the Angels in Hamilton’s contract if he relapses other than what is standard in any MLB contract.
Shayne Kelley, who worked in a support role for Hamilton in Texas, will be a daily presence with the team, according to Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto.
“We’ve done our fair share of due diligence,” Dipoto said.