Several teams tied to Hamilton, but he threatens to have first 'mystery' market

The Philadelphia Phillies are believed to have superstar outfielder Josh Hamilton as a fallback option in case Melvin Upton and Michael Bourn can’t be signed. So Hamilton is at least on their radar.

Beyond that, it is hard to tell exactly where the best and highest-profile position player on the free-agent market stands with anyone. (And that isn't especially helpful since he isn't the first or second option there, it appears.)

Part of the mystery may be because teams are loathe to admit involvement with a player that’s 1) going to be expensive, and 2) has controversies in his past. And some of the secrecy is undoubtedly because he is represented by Michael Moye, whose company policy is to say nothing about what’s going on in negotiations with any of his clients.

And that means zero, zilch, bupkus.

The Baltimore Orioles , Mariners, Milwaukee Brewers , Red Sox, Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers all have been tied in some way to chasing Hamilton, but there have been mixed messages or some sort of downplaying effort on the part of most, if not all, of those teams.

The Orioles were revealed to have some level of interest at the GM meetings  -- "How would he look at Camden?" one Orioles person rhetorically asked -- but another person familiar with their thinking suggested he still believed a big offer for Hamilton was unlikely. Owner Peter Angelos has shied away from big free-agent signings in recent years, but with the team proving it was ready to compete last year, perhaps that could yet change.

The Mariners clearly have been weighing a run at Hamilton, and club president Chuck Armstrong told last Wednesday they had flexibility and were "looking at it."  However, GM Jack Zduriencik told the Mariners media a few days later it might not be realistic to spend so much on one player. Seattle Mariners wants to add offense, especially on the corners and at catcher, but could look instead at  Nick Swisher , Cody Ross , Mike Naploi, A.J. Pierzynski , Russell Martin or someone else who'll cost less than $100 million.

The Brewers have been said by people familiar with their thinking to be interested in Hamilton. But GM Doug Melvin joked they need to go to "US Bank" to afford such a player (and pitching is really their greater need). Club owner Mark Attanasio declined comment at the owners meeting last week, but did say he planned to go see US Bank (he was joking, though that is their regular bank).

The Red Sox were posed as a possibility in this space, and while GM Ben Cherington did not admit they met with Moye, he downplayed the meeting, suggesting they have met with just about all the free agents. That’s no exaggeration, as Boston Red Sox has its hand in everything, but its first thought heading into this winter was to add multiple players rather than make one huge purchase. They do have the wherewithal and flexibility, and owner John Henry suggested the team’s finances are not affected by any reverses tied to his investment company.

The Braves are intrigued, as Danny Knobler wrote, but they prefer a righthanded hitter, appear focused on Upton or Bourn, or probably wouldn't spend the type of money Hamilton's worth.

The Rangers have made no offer to Hamilton, are focused elsewhere (they've looked at Justin Upton  and others, probably including his brother B.J.) and are believed not willing to give Hamilton a megadeal after living with all the ups and downs.

The Phillies are eyeing Upton and Bourn at the moment. That could be because both those players are center fielders in their 20s or because of the price or both.

But the Phillies are at least known to be looking at Hamilton. "I don't think there's a whole lot we're not considering," Phillies president and CEO Dave Montgomery said when asked specifically about Hamilton.

The free-agent market has featured many mystery teams before. This could be the first bona fide mystery market.

Just to be sure the agent Moye was keeping to his policy not to talk, I checked with him Monday morning as to whether he still had that policy.

"Correct," he texted back.

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