ARLINGTON -- Jon Daniels is playing quarterback for the Rangers. He is sitting in the pocket, waiting for a receiver to come open. His primary receivers are outfielder Josh Hamilton and pitcher Zack Greinke. Both are running deep routes, and if the general manager hits one of them, it could be a touchdown. His secondary receivers are outfielders B.J. Upton and Nick Swisher crossing over the middle. He also has a catcher to look at coming out of the backfield. So far, nobody has come open. Daniels is still looking for the big play, but he may have to take the sack or throw the ball away. He doesn't need to force the play or go into a two-minute drill. There is still plenty of time in the offseason to drive the Rangers down the field. The crucial series of plays could be next week when the Winter Meetings begin on Monday in Nashville, Tenn.
As Daniels said earlier this offseason, "We're looking at all our options. There are many different ways we can go. We're look at everything we can to improve the ballclub." The Rangers haven't done much yet this winter other than pick up left-handed reliever Tommy Hottovy from the Royals and catcher Konrad Schmidt from the D-backs. The Rangers did go into the offseason wanting to upgrade their bullpen and catching, but they had more than this in mind. Greinke is the biggest prize. The Rangers like to direct as much of their financial resources as possible toward starting pitching and Greinke is the best available free agent. The Angels want to re-sign him, but the Dodgers are seriously interested in Greinke and appear to be the Rangers' biggest competition. It could take a six-year deal worth $20-25 million annually to get his name on a contract. Hamilton remains the biggest mystery on the free-agent market. Teams are interested, and Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington told Sirius XM that Hamilton is a "terrific talent." But so far teams appear to be shying away from Hamilton, either because of the steep asking price, his age (31) or his history of injuries. "When you hear what players expect and the years involved, that's a lot to consider," Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told MLB.com's Greg Johns. "At the end of the day, when you gauge the market, you have to be realistic about where it will end up. And there's a strong possibility that one will exceed where we're at." The Mariners still remain one possibility, along with the Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies, Brewers and possibly other teams. There are many clubs that could use a left-handed power hitter capable of hitting 30-40 home runs and driving in 100-120 runs. That includes the Rangers, and Daniels has stayed in contact with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye. The possibility lingers that Hamilton could fall back to the Rangers if that big contract is not out there somewhere else. But Moye could take it slow and wait. The Tigers didn't sign Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $214 million contract until the end of January last offseason. The Rangers have made it clear they don't want to wait on Hamilton and miss other opportunities. Greinke is certainly one opportunity they won't pass up. Upton and Swisher could be two others. Both are drawing interest from several teams who don't want to meet Hamilton's possible asking price. The Rangers' catching situation also needs to be cleared up at some point this winter. One indication of their direction will come Friday when they must decide if they want to offer catcher Geovany Soto a contract. They could non-tender him to avoid an arbitration hearing, but that would create an even bigger hole for them to fill behind the plate. The wise move would seem to add a catcher to pair with Soto rather than subtract. Mike Napoli remains a possibility but is unlikely if he can command a four-year contract on the market. The Rangers also are interested in free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski. They have interest in the Blue Jays' extra catching, but Toronto may prefer going with J.P. Arencibia and John Buck while holding off on top prospect Travis d'Arnaud. At some point the Rangers also have to address a bullpen that has been hit hard by free agency. Mike Adams, Koji Uehara, Mark Lowe and Scott Feldman are all free agents, leaving the Rangers lacking in experience in setup relief behind closer Joe Nathan. They have right-handers Tanner Scheppers, Justin Grimm and Wilmer Font, and left-handers Robbie Ross and Michael Kirkman. But they would like a couple of experienced relievers to add to the mix. The list of free-agent relievers available includes Rafael Soriano, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, Ryan Madson, Brett Myers, Joakim Soria, Jose Valverde, Kyle Farnsworth, Francisco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell. But left-hander Jeremy Affeldt's three-year, $18 million contract with the Giants is an early indication of what the top relievers could be getting on the open market. There are plenty of targets on the free-agent market. Daniels is still looking over the field, but right now his first option is to go for the big-play touchdown to one of his deep receivers.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.