Rangers eager to insert Hamilton into struggling lineup

Rangers eager to insert Hamilton into struggling lineup

ANAHEIM -- The Rangers and the Angels have a deal in place that would bring outfielder Josh Hamilton back to Texas.

The deal is still pending all the necessary approval from the Commissioner's office and the Players Association because of the financial complexity involved. The Rangers will pick up approximately $2 million to $3 million per season over the remaining three years of the deal, an arrangement that requires approval from New York. Sources said nothing has arisen to make the Rangers think the deal won't go through.

The Rangers are eager to complete the trade. They want to get Hamilton out to Arizona to continue his rehab program and recovery from offseason shoulder surgery. Once they get a first-hand look at his progress, they can determine when he will be ready to go out on a medical rehabilitation assignment, how long he will need and when he can rejoin the Major League lineup.

Their lineup needs help. The Rangers managed just three hits in a 3-2 loss to the Angels on Friday night. It's the fourth time in 16 games they have been held to three hits or fewer and it left the team with a .210 batting average.

That's the lowest in the American League and the lowest for the Rangers through 16 games since 1972. The Rangers .334 slugging percentage is the second lowest in the league.

Their starting lineup on Saturday night had five players hitting under .200: Robinson Chirinos (.194), Elvis Andrus (.191), Adrian Beltre (.175), Shin-Soo Choo (.119) and Jake Smolinski (.107). It could have been six but Rougned Odor was given the night off. Odor has one hit in his last 22 at-bats, dropping his average to .132.

Manager Jeff Banister admitted that the collective lack of hitting by the group could be affecting individuals.

"There is the passing of the baton in the positive manner and the passing of the baton in the negative manner," Banister said. "They are all looking to get the big hit and they want to get the big hit. They understand what is at stake. I'm sure the young guys are pressing and the veteran guys are calm. They know it's part of the process."

Smolinski's .107 average is the third lowest in the American League among players with at least 25 at-bats. Choo has the fourth lowest and he also has just one hit in his last 22 at-bats. Banister moved him into the seventh spot Saturday.

"I feel I am getting better with every at-bat and every game," Choo said. "I'm not getting hits, but I am focused on every at-bat and every pitch. In years when I had good years, I had stretches like this for 40-50 at-bats. I know a lot of people are worried about it, but I'm not."

The Rangers went into the season hoping for more offense from their outfield. Their outfielders had a combined .677 OPS in 2014, the third lowest in the American League. Their OPS after 16 games this season was .559 going into Saturday's game.

"We have good games and bad games," Andrus said. "We haven't clicked as a team yet and it has been a tough beginning to the season. Some guys feel good and some don't feel comfortable. We have to play hard and stay healthy. At some point we're going to click and get our offense."

There is still unknown how much Hamilton will help. He last played with the Rangers in 2012 when he hit .285 with 43 home runs, 128 RBIs and a .577 slugging percentage.

But he slipped to .250 with 21 home runs, 79 RBIs and a .432 slugging percentage with the Angels in 2013. He missed almost two months last season with a torn ligament in his left thumb and then had the offseason shoulder surgery. He turns 34 in May and there are still his off-field issues that need to be monitored.

But the Rangers took a chance on Hamilton long ago and it paid off big. Their offensive needs may be more dire now. The Rangers are eager to get the trade done and get Hamilton to Arlington.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.