"The realities are when a guy goes out and tests the market, [and] you get 'this close,' you're not going to preempt it. I think he's going to go out there, test the market and then come back to us. No door's been closed. We're also very realistic about when a star player hits free agency at this point, the history of them returning to their original club. I think we have to prepare both ways and prepare the club for the possibility that he's not back. But we haven't closed any doors."
Hamilton last spoke about his contract situation on Friday after the Rangers lost to the Orioles, 5-1, in the American League Wild Card game. He said it was "50-50" that he would return to the Rangers.
"It was one of those things where I'll go home and spend some time with the family and figure out what's going on and enjoy them right now, then think about what's going to transpire from here on," Hamilton said.
Hamilton just finished his fifth season with the Rangers, hitting .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBIs. But the season did not finish well, for him or the Rangers. Hamilton hit .256 with one home run and five RBIs in the last 11 games, he missed five of six games on a road trip through Seattle and Anaheim because of a problem with his eyes, he committed a crucial error in the final regular-season loss to the Athletics and he was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Orioles.
"Obviously, I think Josh probably would have liked to finish stronger, and we would have liked to see him finish stronger," club president Nolan Ryan said. "Will it impact our position as far as going forward? No, I don't think so. We'll consider the entire season, because it is an entire season that affects the outcome. We've agreed with Josh's folks early on that we would not negotiate during the season. ... They want to go out and see what the market will bear, and we'll see where we are at some point in time."
Hamilton will automatically become a free agent the day after the World Series ends. In order to receive Draft pick compensation if he signs elsewhere, the Rangers must submit within five days a "qualifying" one-year offer to Hamilton that is equal to the average salary of the 125 highest paid players.
Hamilton is the biggest issue facing Texas this offseason. However, the club has other needs to address -- including starting pitching, bullpen, catching and the outfield -- if Hamilton does depart.
Daniels made it clear the Rangers are still in a "win-now" mode.
"I think as far as expectations going forward, nothing's changed," Daniels said. "We expect to win next year and for the long term. We've had a heck of a four-year run here, making the playoffs the last three years, close to 300 wins over that period, counting the postseason. A ton of firsts, a ton of accomplishments. A lot of things we're very proud of.
"That doesn't take away from the sting of how we finished. That's the reality is we've got something here we're extremely proud of and are going to continue to build off that. We want to turn this four-year run into a 10-year run, into a 15-year run, into a 20-year run and create that standard long term. I think we owe our ownership that. I think we owe our fans that."
In other words, the Rangers have no interest in beginning another major rebuilding project, although there will be significant changes to the overall look of the team. That will be more than obvious if Hamilton departs.
"We've got to get better," Daniels said. "We've got to get back to what we're good at, and that's making good baseball decisions. We need to find a way to complement our core that we're fond of and expect to have back. We want to find a way to build on this and get back to where we want to be, competing for the world championship year after year."
Hamilton is not the only potential free agent. Catcher Mike Napoli is, too, along with pitchers Ryan Dempster, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Roy Oswalt and Mark Lowe. The Rangers are also expected to decline a $9.6 million offer on Scott Feldman, making him a free agent.
Other potential decisions include whether to bring back Geovany Soto as the club's catcher, moving Alexi Ogando into the rotation, the future roles of Ian Kinsler and Michael Young, as well as finding ways to fit young prospects like pitcher Martin Perez, outfielder Leonys Martin and infielders Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt into the big league mix.
The Rangers also expect to be active in a free-agent market that is relatively strong in starting pitching. But the club is not ready to offer any specifics at this embryonic stage of the offseason.
"We're going to look to get better by evaluating every possibility," Daniels said. "There might be opportunities to bring new people in or by promoting people from within. The last two offseasons we basically had two [significant] moves. Two years ago, it was Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli. This past year it was Joe Nathan and Yu Darvish.
"I think our people made tremendous evaluations. We were fortunate to hit on those guys. Just by the nature of free agency and going through the winning cycle, we have more decisions to make this winter. We may have to rebuild the bullpen, we may have to look at different spots. For me, that's exciting. It's a chance to put our best foot forward and make some calls."