NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- There is speculation at the Winter Meetings that the interest in free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton is not as high as people expected. Rangers manager Jon Daniels doesn't buy it. "Anytime anybody says they're out on this guy or that guy ... it's usually the opposite," Daniels said. "I don't know in Josh's case, but this is the time of the year everybody is out on everybody until they sign them to a big contract. I don't think anybody is trying to be deceptive or dishonest, but it's the name of the game. It's deceptive in a fun way." The Rangers have not been deceptive on Hamilton. They have made it clear they would like to re-sign the five-time All-Star outfielder.
The Rangers are also ready to make an offer to Hamilton although Daniels has not yet met with agent Mike Moye since arriving in Nashville on Sunday. Daniels said he's not sure if he will meet with Moye before the meetings end on Thursday. "We may, but we don't have anything set in stone," Daniels said. Hamilton is in town, presumably to meet with other teams. But the Rangers expect to talk with Hamilton before the process is over and will likely make him at least one substantial offer to keep him in Texas. That may be in Nashville or after everybody returns home. Daniels is just not sure if Hamilton's price will fall into a range that the Rangers would be comfortable with in the end. "I don't know," Daniels said. "I just don't know." Nobody appears to be sure where Hamilton will end up. A player of his stature often commands a contract of $20-25 million over a seven- to 10-year period of time. That may not be the case with Hamilton, who hit .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBIs for the Rangers in 2012. Club officials from other teams are privately expressing reluctance to pursue Hamilton -- both because of the perceived asking price and his history of injuries. Hamilton was on the disabled list twice in 2009, once in 2011, and he also missed time in September 2010 because of a rib-cage injury. But he did play 148 games in 2012, the second most in his six-year career, and he has started in five straight All-Star Games for the American League. Despite his injuries, Hamilton's .559 slugging percentage over the past five years is the highest of any outfielder in the Major Leagues. He has the third most home runs and the fourth-most RBIs among outfielders in that period. The Phillies, Orioles, Brewers, and Mariners have all been rumored to be interested in Hamilton. But sources from those clubs say Hamilton is too expensive for their budgets. The Red Sox and Yankees have always been willing to spend money and both teams have a serious need for a power-hitting outfielder. They are the two clubs that could come out of nowhere to make a serious run at Hamilton. But so far that doesn't appear to be the case. Hamilton is one of two big free agents being pursued by the Rangers. Pitcher Zack Greinke is the other and the Rangers have maintained contact with his agent Casey Close. The Dodgers are considered to be the favorites to sign Greinke and the Angels are also in the hunt. If the Rangers sign Greinke, he would join a rotation that already includes Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. Martin Perez finished the season as the Rangers' fifth starter and Colby Lewis, coming off elbow surgery, is expected back in June. But the Rangers are looking for starting pitching here in Nashville. They are interested in Greinke and they are also interested in R.A. Dickey if the Mets are truly serious about trading him. The Rangers also know the Rays may be interested in trading pitching, but they have been told David Price is not available and are skeptical that James Shields will be moved either. "We'd like to upgrade our rotation," Daniels said. "We like the four guys that we have, we like the idea of Colby coming back and we like the potential of Martin and other guys. A lot depends on if there is a fit or not." The Rangers aren't likely to sign both Hamilton and Greinke. But they also aren't going to wait around for Hamilton if they get a serious opportunity to sign Greinke. "If we're faced with a decision where it's either/or we'll communicate that to everybody involved," Daniels said. "We're not there yet." If the Rangers don't re-sign Hamilton, Daniels said there is a good chance they could go with the outfielders that they have. That would mean Nelson Cruz in right, David Murphy in left with a potential platoon of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin in center. The Rangers aren't likely to move Ian Kinsler to left field to make room for Jurickson Profar. If Kinsler does change positions, it would likely be to first base and that's something the Rangers have discussed in their meetings. "Everything is on the table," Daniels said. "We've talked about a lot of different things."
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.