Rangers agree to Minors deal with Hamilton

Veteran will compete for roster spot, learn to play 1B in Spring Training

Rangers agree to Minors deal with Hamilton

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers have a new candidate to play first base in 2017.

Josh Hamilton said he will be trying a new position in Spring Training after officially agreeing to a Minor League contract on Tuesday.

"I've been hinting at it for a couple of years," Hamilton said. "If I'm in the outfield, you know I'm going to go all out and run into a wall. That's just the way I play. If I didn't do that, I'm not enjoying it or having fun.

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"But just thinking about it, what's ultimately the biggest thing for me is getting at-bats and doing damage at the plate. As far as fitting into the team and getting at-bats, DH is a possibility, first base maybe, left field is an option, too."

Hamilton still has to make the team. He was limited to just 50 games in 2015 because of physical issues, and missed all of the '16 season because of his left knee. Hamilton underwent reconstructive surgery in June and was released by the Rangers at the end of August.

Hamilton gives health update

"I think it is a prove yourself thing," Hamilton said. "No guarantees, which is what I've always liked. You push yourself and drive yourself to get better. It gets you to where you want to be as a ballplayer."

The Rangers could still add another first baseman/designated hitter, and, Mike Napoli remains a possibility. The club has been negotiating with Napoli for almost the entire offseason, and, the talks are ongoing.

General manager Jon Daniels declined to discuss specific names, but there are a significant number of free agents still available who fit as a first baseman/designated hitter. Napoli and Mark Trumbo are at the top of the list, but the wide range of hitters includes Pedro Alvarez, Chris Carter, Dae-Ho Lee, Adam Lind, Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau among others.

Daniels on Hamilton's return

"Yeah, we're not ruling that out," Daniels said. "We have been in touch with other free agents ... guys who are in more of a consideration for a Major League contract. We may do something if it fits the roster and financially. We're also comfortable going in with what we have."

The Rangers' first-base candidates now include Hamilton, Jurickson Profar, Joey Gallo and Ryan Rua. All have limited experience there, and Hamilton said he has not played first base since a teenager on his American Legion team.

Hamilton has talked quietly about trying it for several years, but he wanted to be respectful and not intrude on Mitch Moreland.

"Yeah ... he also wanted to catch and play shortstop, too," Daniels said.

Hamilton has been working out in Houston since his knee surgery and he has even talked to former Ranger Lance Berkman about what it would entail.

Hamilton to change positions

"His willingness to work out at first base would give him a number of spots he can play," Daniels said. "He can play the outfield, but his knee durability is questionable. It might be easier for him to stay healthy if he is on the [infield] dirt."

Hamilton just wants to be able to play again. He started to wonder last year in Spring Training if his career might be over. He was coming off two surgeries on his knee and it was still bothering him.

"We didn't have any answers," Hamilton said. "We were doing everything possible and it wasn't getting any better."

It wasn't until Hamilton had reconstructive knee surgery in June that the problem was finally fixed. Hamilton was cleared medically in December and is able to do all baseball activities. He is expected to be at full strength in Spring Training.

"It's good," Hamilton said. "It has been something different, but everything is good. It has taken awhile but it feels good, it feels healthy. I have been cleared for baseball activities so they just tell me to do what I can, stay within yourself and finish the process. By the time Spring Training starts, I should be at the end of it."

According to his contract, Hamilton has the right to opt for free agency on April 1 if he is not on the Major League roster.

"I haven't even thought about that," Hamilton said. "Ultimately to get back and be a part of the organization, I consider it a blessing. The first time I came to camp having to make the team was in 2007 [as a Rule 5 Draft pick] with the Reds. How hard I had to work was so much fun ... every day mattered. I'm fighting for something. That's what I'm taking into Spring Training."

Hamilton will fight for spot

Hamilton is in the final year of his five-year, $125 million contract that he signed with the Angels after the 2012 season. The Angels are still paying almost all of his salary. Hamilton said there were no other discussions with any other club besides the Rangers this offseason.

"It wasn't about where I would end up," Hamilton said. "It was realizing I hadn't played in a year. I was worried about getting healthy if I was going to keep playing ... do what I need to do to get ready to play."

Hamilton, a five-time All-Star and the American League Most Valuable Player in 2010, said there is plenty left in his tank if he is healthy.

"A whole lot," Hamilton said.

T.R. Sullivan has covered the Rangers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.