Reds send outfielder to Rangers for Volquez, minor leaguer
One of baseball's best comeback stories during his breakout rookie year, the 26-year-old center fielder whose career was nearly derailed by alcohol and drug abuse was traded Friday from the Reds to the Rangers for pitchers Edinson Volquez and Danny Herrera.
Hamilton batted .292 with 19 homers and 47 RBIs in 298 at-bats this year. He fills one of the biggest needs for the Rangers, who parted with one of their top pitching prospects in Volquez.
"The second season after being out for 3 1/2 years is an important season," said Hamilton, who has gone through eight rehab programs for addiction to alcohol and crack cocaine. "This is maybe where I start becoming an established big leaguer."
The Rangers also appear close to landing free agent reliever Eddie Guardado, who pitched for the Reds this year. General manager Jon Daniels said he expected the club to sign the left-hander but would not commit to a timetable.
Daniels was eager to commit to Hamilton, calling him a sorely needed "impact bat."
Hamilton's rookie season was interrupted by an inflamed digestive track and a sprained wrist, but he still received 151,000 write-in votes for the All-Star Game, the top total in the NL.
Daniels said a physical and battery of tests gave him confidence in Hamilton's health.
"We've done about everything we could have done with him without moving in with him in Raleigh," said Daniels, referring to Hamilton's hometown in North Carolina.
Volquez, a 24-year-old right-hander, was 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts for the Rangers last season and is considered one of their top pitching prospects. He was honored as their top minor league pitcher this year.
"The numbers he put up in Double-A and Triple-A were impressive," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "The trade would not have been done unless we felt he was ready to compete and win a job in the rotation in '08."
Hamilton was out of baseball from 2003-06. He has been clean more than two years, allowing him to get his life in order and resume his career.
The Reds got him in the Rule 5 draft before last season. Hamilton was warmly received in Cincinnati, where he readily shared his life story and became a fan favorite. He was expendable because the Reds already have outfielders Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn, Norris Hopper and Ryan Freel.
The Rangers had been looking for a center fielder. Even last week after the club signed Milton Bradley, manager Ron Washington talked about looking for a "natural center fielder."
Bradley, coming off knee surgery, will be a right fielder and designated hitter.
Krivsky said Hamilton's injuries last season didn't play a role in the Reds' willingness to trade him.
"When you haven't played for four years and haven't gone through a 162-game schedule, you're bound to have a few more injuries than the next guy," Krivsky said. "It was a learning experience for him. He went through the grind for the first time in his career."
Daniels said because of the holiday, he wasn't sure when the Rangers might complete a deal for Guardado. The 37-year-old former closer is coming back from reconstructive elbow surgery in September 2006. The Reds declined his 2008 contract option, which would have paid him $3.5 million, allowing him to become a free agent.
The 23-year-old Herrera spent most of last season at Double-A, going 5-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 34 relief appearances.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press