As workers cleaned up the aftermath of Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium across the street from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the Texas Rangers equipment truck headed out this afternoon to the team's spring training facility in Surprise, Arizona. Shortly before Josh Hamilton and Darren Oliver unveiled a banner to celebrate the occasion, Hamilton said his agent, Mike Moye, and the club were making progress on his contract for this year, and he addressed rumors that Michael Young could be traded.
"It's hard to lose a guy who's your most durable player, who's in there every day, who's getting 550, 600 at-bats a year, putting up numbers like he does," he said. "Does it make sense? No. But I don't get paid to make those kinds of decisions."
Hamilton said he worked out this morning with Young, who told him that he's unsure whether he'll be on the team when players report later this month to Surprise.
"It's definitely a concern," Hamilton said about trading Young. "When you think about his leadership and how long he's been with this organization, you think about him not being here, and it's kinda hard to think about. He's been here since I've been here, and he's been a guy I could go to, who I really look to as a veteran leader and somebody I could learn from. So, if we lose him, it's gonna be a big loss."
Rangers president Nolan Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels confirmed in a conference call afterward that Young has requested to be traded because he doesn't want to primarily fill the designated hitter position this early in his career. Young's agent, Dan Lozano, told Daniels about a week ago that Young had changed his mind after previously agreeing to take over the DH role and occasionally play various infield positions.
"Nothing's imminent at this point," Daniels said of a potential deal, noting that Lozano submitted a list of eight teams to which Young prefers to be traded as part of the limited no-trade clause included in the five-year, $80 million contract extension signed in March 2007.
Daniels said he wants to accommodate Young's request, but he stressed he won't make a deal without improving the team by doing so. Ryan, who described Young as "one of the premier hitters in the game," said it's premature to say whether the club is willing to include money in a deal to offset the three years and $48 million remaining on his contract. Ryan also said Young wasn't specific about why he's changed his mind other than stating his concern about the effect of moving to DH on his career.
Ryan told Young that he'd be playing in the field about 20 percent of the time and said Young didn't express frustration about the recent trade for Mike Napoli in his two conversations with him last weekend.
Daniels said Young simply has had more time to think about his new role: "As time has gone on, he's changed his mind."
When asked whether playing first base full time was an option for Young, Daniels said the organization is committed to allow Mitch Moreland to establish himself at that position.
And how did the Rangers get in this mess in the first place?
"Obviously, the catalyst of this was signing [Adrian] Beltre," Daniels said.
Hamilton said Young "loves it in Texas and has been here a long time," but has "some discontent" about his current situation. "Hopefully, we can keep that chemistry there and some guys will have to step up and be a leader. It's going to be different if something happens and he's not here. But we'll have to step up and focus on what got us where we were last year. And part of that chemistry was loving each other, encouraging each other and backing each other up."
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The reigning American League MVP described the offseason as "quick" and said he's almost at the weight he's targeted for spring training -- 238 pounds -- after battling pneumonia. (He said he's at 233 pounds now.)
"Physically, I feel good," he said. "Mentally, I'm getting there."
While Hamilton is under team control for two more seasons, he's the only player on the club without a contract as the two sides have submitted arbitration amounts of $12 million and $8.7 million, respectively. Hamilton said the Rangers discussed the possibility of buying out both arbitration years, but he's prepared to head to a hearing if they can't come to an agreement before next Monday's deadline.
"It's not just about me and what I'm going to get, but it's about the guys who are coming after me and doing the same things for those guys that the guys before me did," he said.