|Josh Hamilton may not get the lengthy contract he wants, so he could wind up back in Texas. (US Presswire)|
Josh Hamilton and the Rangers have continued to stay in touch, and while the Mariners and others are showing interest, rivals suggest they believe the chances of Hamilton staying with Texas have increased in recent days.
The Rangers haven't replaced Hamilton in the lineup, and while he has other suitors, it's unclear whether he's getting outside offers anywhere near his seven-year target. The division rival Mariners are thought willing to go four years, or perhaps more, but they are still viewed as the outsider, at least by executives on other teams, and it still isn't certain they've made their offer yet.
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The Phillies reportedly made a three-year offer to Hamilton, according to Philadelphia radio station WIP, and while Philly GM Ruben Amaro has a reputation for luring the big fish, it's still hard to see Hamilton leaving Texas for a three-year deal. Presumably, they'd have to up that to four years, at least, have a chance.
Hamilton's preference to stay in Texas became clear when he visited with teams at the winter meetings in Nashville, and the Rangers have never closed the door.
"My feelings about Josh haven't changed from Day One," Rangers GM Jon Daniels told Rangers.com. "I think we have been consistent. We want Josh back and always have."
Hamilton wants to stay, too. His desire to stay in Texas, in fact, is such that he reportedly told the Rangers he'd go back to them and allow them the chance to match any offer.
The knowledge of that intention actually could discourage other teams from diving in. Teams are reluctant to set the price for Texas. One rival said that with Hamilton's stated plan, "I don't know why you'd want to negotiate with him." Others have said similar.
It was reported that Hamilton and the Rangers were talking about a possible deal for about four years at the winter meetings when talks were said to have been put "on hold." But when other 30-something players who are good but far short of superstar (Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli) get three years, four years figures to be the minimum time frame for Hamilton, even with his history of drug and alcohol problems.
"He is a special and elite player," one rival GM said. "You can't let an extra year stand in the way. Is Texas really going to go with [Nelson] Cruz , [Craig] Gentry, and [David] Murphy in the outfield."
They also have top prospect Leonys Martin, but the point is made. The Rangers are all in to win, and Hamilton looks like their best chance to keep them winning.
The Mariners look like the might be the biggest threat, though like other interested teams, they aren't expected to be willing to meet Hamilton's seven-year goal. There has been little evidence of the Brewers or Red Sox being serious players in recent days.
While some Rangers people were concerned about the variety of ailments that sidelined the star outfielder last season (not to mention is horrible final week), club decision-makers can't disregard the fact he had 43 home runs and 128 RBIs, and those aren't easy to replace.
Rangers target Justin Upton basically came off the market within the past day or two, as the Diamondbacks got the shortstop they sought, Didi Gregorius, without dealing Upton. As reported in this space Tuesday morning, the Diamondbacks are unlikely to trade Upton now.
Texas also failed to land top free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke, freeing dollars that could go to Hamilton.
The Rangers still would like to add a pitcher, but are mostly looking at mid-rotation guys, including Edwin Jackson, the type of signing which wouldn't preclude a massive deal with Hamilton.