LOS ANGELES (AP) — 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.