Oct 3, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez (left) reacts as he is hit by the backswing of Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton during the fifth inning in game two of the 2014 ALDS playoff baseball game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
As the Cincinnati Reds continue to holdout for some sort of solution to their left field problems in 2015, it’s perhaps fitting that the first day of Winter corresponds to the anniversary of a monumental Reds trade involving an marquee outfielder. On December 21, 2007, Cincinnati sent Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers in exchange for pitchers Danny Herrera and Edinson Volquez.
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The Reds took a chance on Hamilton 2007 when no one else would, and they were rewarded with 19 homers and a 131 OPS+ in 90 games to accompany really good fielding in center. That year, Hamilton was one of baseball’s great bargains at a salary of just $380,000, and Cincy decided to cash in on his early success rather than betting on him to keep his demons at bay again in 2008, and the deal with Texas was born.
Hamilton was pretty much the same player in 2008 that he had been in 2007 before a dip in 2009 put his future in question. He bounced back big in 2010, though, and captured the American League MVP award with a numbers that included 32 home runs, 100 RBI and a scorching .359 batting average in 133 games. Another stellar season in 2012 set him up for his big payday, a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels that will pay him more than $120 million.
Hamilton has been a disappointment in two years with the Angels, totaling 31 home runs in 240 games and generally looking very soft at the plate. His name has been bandied about in trade rumors this off-season, but his contract will make him hard to move.
Volquez, meanwhile, went 17-6 in 2008 for a Reds team that finished 74-88, but as Cincinnati climbed the standings the next two season, injuries limited Volquez’s contributions. After the 2011 season, he was traded along with an army of youngsters to the San Diego Padres for Mat Latos. After a successful stint on the Riverfront, Latos was traded this month to the Miami Marlins for prospects Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach.
Herrera pitched in more than 100 games for the Reds from 2008-10 before finishing up his career with the Milwaukee Brewers and New York Mets in 2011.
It was hard for Reds fans to see Hamilton walk out the door with his potential just starting to come to the surface, but he would have departed in free agency anyway, and Cincinnati didn’t want to pay his arbitration raises in the interim. Even though he’s gone, though, the 2007 version of Josh Hamilton will always live as one of those rare diamonds in the rough who actually shined up better than we thought it might.