Hamilton, Greinke remain on Rangers' radar
GM Daniels exploring 'opportunities to upgrade' in effort to win championship
ARLINGTON -- Outfielder Josh Hamilton remains unsigned as a free agent. It was the first topic brought up to general manager Jon Daniels on a media conference call Thursday afternoon."It's about the same as our last conference call a couple of weeks ago," Daniels said with a trace of weariness in his voice. "I've maintained contact with [his agent] Mike Moye. I think the interest has been consistent and so has the process that we agreed to in Spring Training when we tabled negotiations. Josh is going to test the market and when he's done that, he's going to circle back to us. He's still doing that. "I think it's worked out well for us. We're sorting through our options as well and I would think it would start moving a little bit here shortly." The options the Rangers are sorting through include free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke. He and Hamilton are the two best free agents on the market, and the Rangers have interest in both. Right now there is no clear indication where either one will land but the Rangers remain possibilities for both as the Winter Meetings get ready to start on Monday in Nashville, Tenn. The Rangers have also made it clear that they will not wait on Hamilton if another opportunity presents itself. "That's still the case," Daniels said. "If we're in a spot and we've got a decision to make based on the timing, we'll make that call. If we run into a situation where we have to push our timetable up with Josh, we'll do that. We're not there yet." Clearly Greinke is the one free agent who could make the Rangers do that. The Rangers currently have a rotation of Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. Martin Perez ended the season as the fifth starter but Daniels, without getting into specifics, left open the possibility of adding starting pitching. "You're always looking out for starting pitching ... always looking to upgrade," Daniels said. "Do we have to? Not necessarily. It's something we're looking at." Greinke is not going to come cheaply, not after Matt Cain signed a six-year, $127.5 million contract with the Giants at the beginning of this past season. Greinke could go beyond that, if there are enough teams involved in the bidding. So far, the Dodgers and the Angels have been identified as the Rangers' prime competitors, but others could be lurking. Daniels said the Rangers do not have a specific philosophy for how far they are willing to go in money and length of contract for a high-end free-agent starting pitcher. "The shorter and cheaper the better," Daniels joked. "We evaluate everything on an individual basis, each individual player and circumstances. We consider all factors you can imagine and go from there." The Rangers still have Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, who are both coming back from major arm surgery. The Rangers are hoping Lewis could be back by June 1. Feliz could be a couple months after that but it will be as a reliever, at least for next season according to Daniels. Neither pitchers' situation impacts the Rangers' offseason planning. "We have to put the club together not counting on them," Daniels said. If the Rangers are able to sign Greinke, it would likely mean that Hamilton will not return. That may be the case even if Greinke signs elsewhere. Daniels said that if Hamilton departs, that does not mean outfield becomes a bigger priority for a team that is still trying to find a catcher and bullpen help. "Not necessarily," Daniels said. "Not necessarily. I think we're very comfortable with David Murphy and Nelson Cruz on the corners and with Leonys Martin, with Craig Gentry, with Julio Borbon and Engel Beltre on the roster. If Josh isn't back, I don't know if it's a situation where we need to add an outfielder. We may but it's not necessarily our first priority." The other factor in the equation is rookie infielder Jurickson Profar. The Rangers are considering the possibility of Profar playing a more prominent role, which could mean Ian Kinsler moving to the outfield. The Rangers haven't broached that possibility but Kinsler has already stated that he would be open to it. As far as Profar being given a more significant role, Daniels said, "It's still up in the air. It's a possibility, something that's been talked about among us. It's not set in stone. It depends on some of the other things we're talking about. But he's capable of doing that. "Everybody has to earn their opportunities. If young players are going to play for us, it's going to be because we feel they can help us win and they can complement our core and become a part of the core." These are questions the Rangers hope to have answered in Nashville, or at least a better understanding of where they are headed. Daniels said he expects activity to start accelerating in the next 10 days to two weeks. The Rangers have other questions with catching still looming large. Daniels admitted there are not that many attractive catching options on the market this winter. They continue to have discussions with Mike Napoli and they have some interest in free agents A.J. Pierzynski and Russell Martin. "I'm not sure we'll find our long-term answer to catching this offseason," Daniels said. "It's too early to say. There is a limited supply as far as guys who are available. We're still looking at our options." That could be a suggestion that the Rangers aren't willing to commit beyond a two-year deal to the catchers who are available. But it's clear the Rangers have to find somebody and Daniels declined to say if the club will be able to reach an agreement with Geovany Soto. They are trying to work out a contract with Soto that would avoid an arbitration hearing later this winter and 11 p.m. CT on Friday is the deadline to tender contracts to players. If the Rangers can't work something out with Soto, there is a possibility they could non-tender him and let him become a free agent. "I don't have anything to announce there," Daniels said. The Rangers haven't had much to announce this winter but Daniels made it clear his goal is to put together a team that can compete for a championship in 2013. The "win now" philosophy is still in place. "We've looked at a variety of things to improve the club," Daniels said. "Some are relatively minor, some of them involve giving our young players a chance and some are bigger moves. Some are a combination of them all. "We're not going to turn over the club. We're in a situation where we have a good club, a good core. We like our team. We've got some opportunities to upgrade and we're looking into them."
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.