ARLINGTON -- Now there is outfielder Josh Hamilton. With many of the Rangers' other preferred options starting to slip away, the best hope for an impact offseason move seems to be pointed mainly at re-signing Hamilton.
There was a rumor floating Wednesday morning that the Phillies were going after Hamilton with a three-year deal and, two offseasons ago, they did step in unexpectedly to sign pitcher Cliff Lee away from the Rangers.
But as of Wednesday morning, the Rangers were operating under the assumption they still had a good chance of re-signing Hamilton.
"My feelings about Josh haven't changed from Day 1," general manager Jon Daniels said Wednesday. "I think we have been consistent. We want Josh back and always have. It has nothing to do with who is still on the market and who is off the market. We've maintained communication and the relationship is good. We'd still like to work something out but I can't handicap it."
The Rangers had a plan going into the offseason of how they wanted to improve the team. Re-signing Hamilton was a part of that. There were other options but so far their only major addition has been signing reliever Joakim Soria.
"Going into the offseason we felt like there were a number of options to improve the team internally and we still feel that way," Daniels said. "Obviously, we were looking at a few specific guys [externally] but at this point, with the exception of Soria, they haven't materialized.
"The danger is reacting for the sake of a headline and satisfy everybody's desire to make an offseason move. Just like our fans and players, we want to do something but it's got to be right. The offseason winners and losers are not always the same teams who are playing in October."
The Rangers were hoping to sign pitcher Zack Greinke but he decided on the Dodgers and agreed to a six-year, $147 million contract to pitch in Los Angeles. Greinke, at his press conference on Tuesday, admitted at one point he was favoring the Rangers but wasn't keen on the idea of pitching at the Ballpark in Arlington because it is perceived as a hitter-friendly park.
"It was one negative for Texas, but it's not the only thing that made a decision," Greinke said.
"Texas was very competitive right till the end," Greinke's agent Casey Close said. "He had a lot of great choices in front of him, and ultimately he decided [Los Angeles] was where he wanted to play. But [the Rangers] were very competitive and they did a great job, as well, in the whole recruiting process of Zack."
While Greinke was in Los Angeles on Tuesday to sign with the Dodgers, the Arizona Diamondbacks were busy completing a nine-player trade with the Indians and the Reds. From the Rangers' standpoint, the most significant thing about the trade is the D-backs acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Reds and did not have to include outfielder Justin Upton in the deal.
The D-backs have been trying to land a shortstop and that seemed a pre-requisite for any trade involving Upton. The Rangers have been trying to acquire Upton and that may no longer be possible.
"I would say with all the areas we've addressed, I would say it's highly unlikely that we move Justin," D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said.
The Rangers were also interested in trading for Rays pitcher James Shields. But the Rays were adamant about getting infielder Jurickson Profar back in the deal and the Rangers weren't going to do that. Profar is likely to be the Rangers' starting second baseman with Ian Kinsler moving to first.
Then there is R.A. Dickey, the Mets knuckleballer who was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2012. He is signed through this season at a $5 million salary and the Mets are trying to reach an agreement with him on a contract extension. But the talks have not progressed as well as Dickey had hoped and there is a possibility the Mets could end up trading him. The Rangers are interested but the Mets are looking for multiple top prospects in any return and a deal does not look good at this point.
That leaves Hamilton, whose venture into free agency remains one of the biggest mysteries of the offseason. Only a couple of things remain clear.
One is that the Rangers are interested in bringing him back. Secondly, there are other teams interested but appear reluctant to pursue Hamilton aggressively because of his possible contract demands and/or his history of injuries.
The Phillies and the Mariners are considered to be the Rangers' prime competition. The Red Sox have shown interest but are reluctant to go beyond three years, according to those familiar with their plans. The Brewers are squeamish about the cost.
Length of contract is likely the biggest obstacle for any team. Hamilton could probably have his pick of places to play if he were willing to settle for a three-year contract. That may be how he ends up in Philadelphia, Seattle or somewhere else. When it gets beyond three years, teams appear to be dropping out.
Right now it seems to come down to how many years the Rangers are willing to commit to Hamilton and if there are other teams willing to match or exceed it. But at this point, Hamilton appears to be the Rangers' best chance of making an impact move this winter.