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Rangers acquire Hamilton from Reds

Rangers acquire Hamilton

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers went into the offseason looking for both a center fielder and a big bat for the middle of the order. Their preference was for young players who could "grow" with the team.

The Rangers believe they were able to get both in one deal when they acquired center fielder Josh Hamilton from the Cincinnati Reds for pitcher Edinson Volquez and Minor League reliever Danny Herrera. The trade not only addresses the Rangers' offensive needs but could also open up a spot for rookie Eric Hurley in the rotation.

Hamilton was taken by the Tampa Bay Rays with the first overall pick in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft but had to overcome a long history of personal issues and drug abuse before reaching the Major Leagues. Picked up a year ago by the Reds in the Rule 5 Draft, Hamilton, 26, hit .292 with 19 home runs and 47 RBIs in 298 at-bats this past season.

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"Obviously, we've done as much homework on this guy as we've ever had on anybody," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "We feel very comfortable about where Josh has been and that he'll be a big part of our team, both on and off the field. He has been through a lot over the past few years and we feel he's over the hump.

"His talent package is really hard to come by. This guy has the ability to do everything you can ask on a baseball field."

Hamilton will be the Rangers' center fielder with Milton Bradley in right, Marlon Byrd in left and Frank Catalanotto as the primary designated hitter. David Murphy, Nelson Cruz and Jason Botts remain in the mix and a fourth outfielder will play an important role because both Bradley and Hamilton have a history of injuries.

But with the addition of both Bradley and Hamilton, the Rangers feel they have accomplished their goal of addressing their outfield needs.

"I'm really excited," Hamilton said. "I'm happy knowing the Rangers feel like they need a center fielder and fill the void in their lineup. I feel like this is a great fit and I'm going to do everything I can to help this team. I play to win, but I just want to have fun."

Hot Stove

The Rangers had to give up one of their top five starters to get Hamilton. Volquez was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in six games in September and was penciled in as the Rangers' fifth starter going into Spring Training. The Rangers have not identified his replacement, but have several internal candidates as possibilities.

One is Hurley, a right-hander who was their second first-round pick in the 2004 Draft behind Thomas Diamond. He was 7-2 with a 3.25 ERA in 15 games at Double-A Frisco this past season and was 4-7 with a 4.91 ERA in 13 games at Triple-A Oklahoma. His chances for getting a serious shot in Spring Training just went up significantly, but other candidates include right-handers Luis Mendoza, Armando Galarraga and Kameron Loe.

The Rangers will look outside as well and have considered free-agent starters Bartolo Colon and Jason Jennings. Both are coming off major injuries. On a lesser level, they have considered free-agent left-handers Mark Hendrickson and Mike Maroth and right-hander Josh Towers, among others.

"As we sit here today, we're going to have some competition internally," Daniels said. "We may bring somebody to compete for that spot, but I'm comfortable with the young pitchers that we have competing for that spot.

"We knew we weren't going to be able to bring in a guy like Josh without giving up a significant piece. But we felt like getting Josh was more critical than not doing this deal. First and foremost, the deal is about Josh and what he brings to the ballclub, both on and off the field."

To complete the deal, Hamilton underwent a complete physical on Friday. His past personal problems have made headlines, but his physical problems have also been extensive. He was on the disabled list twice last season, first because of gastroenteritis and then because of a sprained right wrist.

"We were more concerned about the medical issues," Rangers owner Tom Hicks said. "I really challenged JD [Daniels] to make sure he felt strongly about this trade."

The off-field issues still had to be addressed, both by Hicks and Daniels. Hamilton missed 3 1/2 years from 2002-2006 because of his drug problems while going in and out of rehabilitation eight different times. He said he has been clean for over two years and his arrival in the Major Leagues last season appeared to be in the end of a long, hard road.

"I've never met anybody who hasn't made a mistake in the past or wrestled with demons," Hamilton said. "The main thing is you learn from it and you don't repeat it. I've taken some steps in my life to put God and my family first. I have a good support system in place and I'm very comfortable in saying that the past is in the past and the future is brighter.

"Now I really want to show these guys what I can do."

Hamilton, after missing all of 2003-05, finally got back on the field in 2006, playing in 15 games for Class A Hudson Valley in the Rays organization. The Cubs then took him in the Rule 5 Draft and immediately traded him to the Reds.

His rookie season was a success except for the injuries. He was fourth among National League rookies in home runs, fifth in on-base percentage (.368) and his slugging percentage (.554) was second only to Rookie of the Year Ryan Braun of the Brewers.

"Last year was a dream come true," Hamilton said. "I took a very different road to the Majors than most players, and that made it even sweeter. Before I was taking things for granted and going through the motions. When I finally got back, everything I did made me realize how fortunate and blessed I was."

Hamilton is originally from North Carolina and is close to former Reds manager Jerry Narron and his brother Johnny. Jerry Narron also managed the Rangers in 2001-02 and Daniels spoke at length with him about Hamilton before doing the deal.

"I did a lot of research on this guy," Hicks said. "When I blessed the trade, the other owner didn't want to do the deal so we had to sweeten it up [with Herrera] because he was their most popular player. It's like I told Josh, I feel like I know his life story by heart because I read so much about him. There is some risk, but there is huge potential and upside. If he hadn't had the issues that he's had, we wouldn't have been able to trade for him."

If he stays healthy, he can fill a big void for the Rangers.

"I'm happy," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I'm very happy I have a complete ballplayer. He can play everywhere you want him. I'm glad we can bring in a guy like Josh Hamilton, who can be a big part of our success. It's a very Merry Christmas that Jon Daniels and Mr. Hicks have brought to the Texas Rangers in Josh Hamilton."

In addition to trading for Hamilton, the Rangers also announced on Friday they had signed outfielder Jason Ellison and pitcher Elizardo Ramirez to Minor League contracts with an invitation to Spring Training.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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