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Hamilton jumps to Angels for $125M over 5 years

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Hamilton jumps to Angels for $125M over 5 years

For the second straight year, the biggest bat on the free-agent market is headed to the high-rolling Angels.

Josh Hamilton agreed to a $125 million, five-year contract with Los Angeles on Thursday, leaving the AL West rival Texas Rangers and becoming the latest high-profile star to migrate to Southern California.

Last winter, the Angels lured slugger Albert Pujols with a $240 million deal and pitcher C.J. Wilson - who was Hamilton's teammate in Texas - for $77.5 million. Still, the club missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

``He's a tremendous talent and I think that they've shown they're going to be in on a lot of the best players out there,'' Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said about Hamilton. ``No sugarcoating it, we wanted the player back. And he signed with the Angels. They're better.''

In other news, the Boston Red Sox agreed with Ryan Dempster on a two-year deal worth $26.5 million, while the New York Yankees and Ichiro Suzuki closed in on a contract that would guarantee him between $12 million and $13 million.

Players around the majors who finalized deals included Shane Victorino (Red Sox), Kevin Correia (Twins), Jack Hannahan (Reds), Andres Torres (Giants) and Nate McLouth (Orioles).

But it was Hamilton's decision that made headlines.

Daniels said the 2010 AL MVP had reached a deal with the Angels, another coup for owner Arte Moreno and GM Jerry Dipoto. Two people familiar with the talks disclosed the amount and length of the contract, speaking on condition of anonymity because the agreement was not yet final.

``It's a great day to be an Angel/Angel fan!'' Wilson said on his Twitter account.

Los Angeles had spent most of the offseason transforming its pitching staff with the additions of starters Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton along with relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Burnett.

Now, Hamilton joins a power-packed lineup in Anaheim that includes Pujols, Mike Trout, Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales.

The 31-year-old slugger had a career-high 43 home runs with 128 RBIs in 148 games last season, when the wild-card Rangers slipped up down the stretch and lost the division title to Oakland on the final day of the regular season.

Hamilton was considered a risk by some teams because of his history of alcohol and substance abuse, which derailed his career before his surge with Texas over the past five seasons.

``Josh has done a lot for the organization, the organization has done a lot for Josh, a lot of things that aren't public and things of that nature,'' Daniels said. ``I'm a little disappointed how it was handled, but he had a decision to make and he made it.''

Speaking after a Rangers holiday luncheon, Daniels said he had just been informed of the decision by Hamilton's agent, Michael Moye.

Daniels said he was disappointed ``to some degree,'' especially since the Rangers never got a chance to match any offer during the process, as they had expected. Or at least to be contacted before Hamilton chose another team.

``I never expected that he was going to tell us to the dollar what they had, and a chance to offer it. Our full expectation, the phone call was going to be before he signed, and certainly not after,'' Daniels said. ``Everybody's got to make their own calls.''

While he wouldn't get into specifics, Daniels said his understanding is the deal with the Angels ``is certainly more guaranteed money.''

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 Yankees.

The agreement came days after the Los Angeles Dodgers added pitchers Zack Greinke and Ryu Hyun-jin, boosting their payroll over $200 million. Greinke, another offseason target, said he chose the Dodgers over the Rangers.

Elsewhere, the Yankees and Suzuki were likely to settle on a two-year deal, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing.

Acquired from Seattle on July 23, the 39-year-old Suzuki revived his career in New York. A 10-time All-Star, he hit .322 with five homers, 27 RBIs and 14 steals in 67 games for the Yankees to help them win the AL East.

New York also planned to finalize a $12 million, one-year contract Friday with Kevin Youkilis.

The Red Sox landed a reliable starter in Dempster, two people familiar with the negotiations said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the agreement was pending a physical.

The right-hander was a combined 12-8 with a 3.38 ERA for the Cubs and Rangers this year. He has thrown more than 200 innings in four of the past five seasons.

Boston held a news conference to introduce Victorino, the speedy outfielder who agreed to a $39 million, three-year contract at the winter meetings last week. But general manager Ben Cherington said he had nothing to announce on Mike Napoli, the catcher-first baseman who also agreed to a $39 million, three-year deal during the winter meetings, pending a physical. That contract has yet to be announced.

``Our hope is that we'll be able to resolve the issues,'' Cherington said. ``We're working on it.''

Minnesota filled another hole on a staff that was full of them last season, completing a $10 million, two-year contract with Correia. The 32-year-old righty, an All-Star in 2011, went 12-11 with a 4.21 ERA for Pittsburgh last season but lost his spot in the rotation when the Pirates traded for Wandy Rodriguez.

``He knows what he's doing on the mound. He's a guy we've seen quite a bit,'' Twins GM Terry Ryan said. ``When you start cracking his numbers, they're very respectable.''

Cincinnati completed a $4 million, two-year contract with free agent Jack Hannahan, giving the NL Central champions added depth at third base.

Torres returned to the Giants, who gave him his first chance as a regular two years ago. The outfielder signed a $2 million, one-year contract with the reigning World Series champions after helping them to the 2010 title. He was traded to the Mets before last season.

``Great to have him back!'' manager Bruce Bochy wrote in a text message. ``He gives us that much more versatility and character in the clubhouse. Everybody loves Andres as a teammate.''

San Francisco also reached a minor league deal with right-hander Chad Gaudin, and Baltimore finalized a $2 million, one-year contract with McLouth.

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AP Sports Writers Ronald Blum, Dave Campbell, Jimmy Golen and Beth Harris and AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.

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Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

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USA Today Sports

Kevin Gausman changes jersey number to honor Roy Halladay

BALTIMORE  -- Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman will wear No. 34 next season as a tribute to Roy Halladay, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

Gausman announced the switch Thursday on his Twitter account. The right-hander wore No. 39 last year.

Gausman and Halladay are both from Colorado, and the Orioles pitcher said he followed Halladay's career closely and idolized him.

In a post next a photo of his new jersey, Gausman wrote: "Roy gave me the inspiration that I could fulfill even my biggest of dreams -- being a pitcher just like him."

Gausman concluded: "The loss of Roy is tragic and saddening, but I feel honored to have watched everything he achieved."

Halladay died on Nov. 7 when his small plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. He played 16 big league seasons, winning the Cy Young Award in each league and being named an All-Star eight times.

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Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

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USA TODAY Sports

Astros, Dodgers set Series HR record amid juiced ball buzz

HOUSTON (AP) -- Home runs kept flying over the wall at Minute Maid Park, on line drives up toward the train tracks, on fly balls that just dropped over the fence.

Seven more were hit in Game 5, raising the total to a World Series record 22 -- with two possible more games to play. Twenty-five runs were scored in a game started by the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw and the Astros' Dallas Keuchel, Cy Young Award winners regarded as among baseball's best.

After a season when sluggers outpaced even their steroid-era predecessors for home runs, some are convinced that something is amiss with the baseballs.

"The main complaint is that the balls seem a little bit different in the postseason, and even from the postseason to the World Series balls," Justin Verlander said Sunday, two days before he takes the mound in Game 6 and tries to pitch the Astros to their first title. "They're a little slick. You just deal with it. But I don't think it's the case of one pitcher saying, `Hey, something is different here.' I think as a whole, everybody is saying, `Whoa, something is a little off here.'"

A record eight home runs were hit in Game 2, including five in extra innings, and Game 5's seven long balls would have tied the old mark. The 13-12, 10-inning Astros' win Sunday night was the second-highest scoring game in Series history.

Keuchel was quoted as saying after Game 2: "Obviously, the balls are juiced."

Not so obvious to everyone, even amid the power surge.

"I haven't personally noticed anything. I haven't tried to think about it either," Dodgers reliever Brandon Morrow said after giving up two homers in Game 5. "It's not something you want to put in your own head."

Same for Kershaw, even after giving up his record eighth homer of the postseason Sunday.

"I don't really pay attention to it," Kershaw said. "I just assume that both sides are dealing with it, so I'm not going to worry about it."

This year's long ball assault topped the 21 of the 2002 Series. Anaheim hit seven and Barry Bonds and his San Francisco Giants slugged 14 over seven games. That was the year before survey drug testing.

Speculation that something has changed includes a study claiming to have found differences in the size and seam height of balls since the 2015 All-Star break.

"I know there was talk about different sizes and some of the baseballs were slightly bigger and some were smaller. Some of the seams were higher, some of the seams were lower. But, no, it's been consistent," said Rich Hill, who will start Game 6 for the Dodgers. "I think that just has to do with conditions -- if it's colder it's going to be slicker. If it's a little bit warmer out or humid, I think you're going to find that you're going to have a little bit more of moisture to the baseballs."

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred insists nothing nefarious is going on.

"I'm absolutely confident that the balls that we're using are within our established specifications," he said Friday.

Verlander rejected that assertion.

"I know Mr. Manfred said the balls haven't changed, but I think there's enough information out there to say that's not true," he said.

Verlander also does not think it's an issue of how balls are rubbed up before games.

"I know baseball uses the same mud for every single ball for every single game that's played," he said. "I think there's a broader issue that we're all missing."

On the day he become commissioner in January 2015, Manfred said, "I'm cognizant in the drop in offense over the last five years, and it's become a topic of conversation in the game, and it's something that we're going to have to continue to monitor and study."

Offense started rebounding during the second half of the season, and a record 6,105 home runs were hit this year, 2.4 percent more than the previous mark of 5,963 set in 2000 at the height of the Steroids Era.

"I think it's pretty clear," Verlander said. "I think our commissioner has said publicly that they wanted more offense in the game. I'm pretty sure I'm not fabricating a quote here when I say that. I think it was already All-Star break of `15, or right before, when he said that."

San Francisco's Johnny Cueto and Toronto's Marcus Stroman also think the balls have changed, with Stroman blaming slick balls for a rise in pitcher blisters -- an affliction which has struck Hill a few times in the past couple seasons, too.

Houston's Brent Strom and the Dodgers' Rick Honeycutt, the World Series pitching coaches, both were quoted by Sports Illustrated on Sunday as saying the slickness of the ball made throwing sliders difficult.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't see a ton difference, but I'm not going to get in a verbal war with coaches and players who think otherwise."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had a similar view but acknowledged the power records got his attention.

"The pitchers talk about it feels different in their hand. The one component is the slickness and guys at different ballparks rub it up differently," he said. "Sort of feels the same to me. But it's hard to argue the numbers. You know there's more velocity. Guys are swinging harder. I know in Los Angeles the air was light. It was hot. The ball was flying, carrying more than typically. But I hesitate to try to give you any insight because I really don't know."

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