Everyone knows that professional sports are a business, and it's rare to find a player who manages to spend the majority of his career with the team that turned him into a star.
According to CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, Texas is taking a step back to see what happens while Hamilton explores free agency. Heyman writes:
Rangers people see little point in making an offer they know he won't accept now, say people familiar with their thinking. They'd be happy to sign him back, but apparently only at their price and contract length. His chance to stay in Texas may depend on his willingness to accept a lower deal with the team and city where his career took off.
It's understandable that the Rangers don't want to expend the effort trying to negotiate with a star who has every intention of seeing what else is out there. But there are times when a team must be willing to have those conversations, even if it does end up being a waste of time. This is one of those situations where going the extra mile is crucial.
If Hamilton doesn't feel wanted by the Rangers, he's going to find somewhere else where he feels very, very wanted. And everyone knows that in baseball, feeling wanted translates to being overpaid.
Very rarely is there an MLB player who gives a team a hometown discount, especially when there is an abundance of teams out there willing to pay a lot more and offer more long-term security. Particularly in baseball, things change so much year to year—elite teams inexplicably fail, terrible teams make unprecedented runs—that staying loyal to a team, even if that team happens to be winning at the time, rarely pays off.
It's hard to make a player feel like you really want him unless you pay him far too much, and considering those standards, Hamilton—who is expected to be the best player on the market this winter—is likely to feel very, very wanted once free agency begins.
There is a team out there—at least one team—that is going to be very willing to overpay for Hamilton. Look at the Red Sox. They overpaid for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and John Lackey all at the same time without batting an eye. And they unloaded two of the three just as easily.
No signing is forever in baseball, and even though Hamilton may be a substantial injury risk, he's an injury risk worth taking, given his production.
Hamilton is a career .304 hitter who's hit 25 or more homers in four of the six years he's been in the league. Even this year, when he missed a handful of games with a variety of odd injuries and illnesses (a sinus infection?), he managed to finish with 43 homers and 128 RBI, the best numbers he's had since 2010.
Will Josh Hamilton be in Texas in 2013?
He's been an All-Star for five straight years and was the league MVP two years ago. Those are precisely the type of players you overpay for. And that leaves the Rangers with no chance of keeping him around.
Perhaps attempting to negotiate with Hamilton would be pointless for Texas. Perhaps the Rangers already know he's not going to be around in 2013, given the abundance of teams that have the money to pay him whatever he wants. According to Heyman, the Rangers aren't willing to offer more than four years, and some other desperate team will undoubtedly exceed that.
Or maybe the Rangers will get lucky and the market for Hamilton will be much less than expected. Probably not, though.
Most likely, Texas knows what it's doing by taking a step back when free agency begins. And if that's the case, this team has already said goodbye to its star.