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December 12, 2012

Josh Hamilton still standing as Rangers try to land a big one

No Zack Greinke. No James Shields. Apparently, there will be no Justin Upton, and there was that out-of-nowhere tweet that Josh Hamilton and Philadelphia were in agreement on a three-year contract.

Things are looking bleaker by the day this off-season at Rangers headquarters, but at least they haven't been told they are out on Hamilton.

Upton isn't entirely off the table, though Arizona general manager Kevin Towers is now posturing that Upton is the most talented and beloved player in Diamondbacks history. With Chris Johnson and Eric Chavez at third, Mike Olt would be an upgrade. Upton wouldn't be replacing Hamilton should he not be re-signed, but Nelson Cruz or David Murphy for 2014 and 2015 should they be go elsewhere as free agents next off-season.

But the off-season has now circled back to being all about Hamilton. If he re-signs, the Rangers can settle for less at catcher and don't have to part with their precious prospects. If he doesn't re-sign, everyone could see very soon just how good those prospects are.

Things couldn't have developed much better for Hamilton if he wants to stay with the Rangers. Hamilton is the only remaining impact player. Despite his finish to the season, he's popular with the fan base, which is starting to worry that the Rangers won't add impact players this off-season.

So, Hamilton has some leverage for the first time this off-season, though Jon Daniels has shown that he's not one to overpay. That doesn't bode well for free-agent starting pitchers Anibal Sanchez and Kyle Lohse, or the Mets in a trade for R.A. Dickey.

(By the way, the content of the bad Hamilton tweet sort of makes sense. Three years and an option for a pile of money would seem to be all teams' preferred way to go. Philadelphia even makes sense. Though the Rangers could offer less and Hamilton still could make more because of no state income tax, players and their union always want the biggest price tag.)

The Rangers would be well-served adding a left-handed bat in the event that Hamilton bolts, so A.J. Pierzynski could become more in play. The Rangers didn't have interest in Adam LaRoche during the winter meetings. They also thought the price tag was too high on Nick Swisher, who is a switch-hitter, an on-base machine, has pop and can play first base. Sounds good, doesn't he?

Keep in mind that it's only 12-12-12. The first spring workout for pitchers and catchers is two months away. Adrian Beltre and Yu Darvish didn't sign until January the past two off-seasons. In other words, it's early, but currently things are looking bleak in Arlington.

-- Jeff Wilson


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