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Josh Hamilton market continues to be the mystery of the winter; O's 'probably' out

Hamilton is easily the most talented and accomplished free agent on the market. (US Prewsswire)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The mysterious Josh Hamilton market gets a little murkier and a little more mysterious by the day. Orioles general manager Dan Duquette as much as admitted they were "probably not" going to be able to sign Hamilton, reducing a largely unknown field by one.

As to the rumors circulating that the Orioles had little extra money to spend considering expected arbitration awards after their wonderful surprise season, Duquette retorted, "We could throw together a few pennies." Then, when asked whether those pennies could possibly add up to a superstar like Hamilton, Duquette conceded, "Probably not."

Folks around the game are wondering where the market is for easily the most talented and accomplished player available as a free agent. One person, who is plugged in just about everywhere, said he hasn't heard a word. And Hamilton's longtime agent, Michael Moye, declined comment, as is his policy, when approached here Sunday.

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Of course, there could always be one (or more), considering Hamilton is an immense talent and still only 31. The Mariners, Red Sox, Phillies and Brewers all have been portrayed as a potential suitor, though Brewers GM Doug Melvin quipped today that he hasn't visited US Bank lately. (Melvin had said a month ago that the small-market Brewers would have to "visit US Bank'' to have any hope at Hamilton, painting that scenario as a deep long shot).

It's possible the Rangers are looking to have played this situation exactly right. Rather than dive in for a big offer on Hamilton, they decided to let him shop around first. He may well be finding some possible landing spots, but no solid ones have immediately become clear, at least not publicly.

Some Rangers people understandably wonder about the deep-pocketed Phillies, who stole Rangers ace Cliff Lee two winters ago out of nowhere and are known to keep a great secret. Phillies CEO Dave Montgomery did not rule out a run at Hamilton when asked a couple of weeks ago whether Hamilton was a possibility.

But in any case, the Rangers have some hope now. They are currently trying to land top free-agent starter Zack Greinke, and if they do, they are said not to have room to bring back Hamilton. However, Texas can't be seen as the favorite for Hamilton as long as the newly rich Dodgers are in the mix.

Rangers people, while frustrated by myriad injuries that struck Hamilton last year, are cognizant of his value as an offensive performer. Despite his vast array of aches and pains, Hamilton did have 43 home runs and 128 RBI in 2012.

It's not like a C.J. Wilson situation, where the Rangers never had much thought of bringing him back. If things break right -- and that means the possibility to do a reasonable deal of maybe three to five years -- Texas would welcome Hamilton back, despite all the issues that cropped up last season.

So even though Hamilton has been looking around (and the Rangers have, too), it shouldn't be assumed he's going elsewhere.

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