Josh Hamilton is one of the most coveted free agents on the market after putting up elite numbers during his five seasons with the Texas Rangers. So it's no surprise he's looking for a long-term deal in what's likely his last chance to negotiate during his prime.
However, it appears the Rangers aren't willing to meet those demands.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports the team that has watched Hamilton develop into a superstar isn't willing to offer him more than three years in a new contract, which would severely hurt its chances of retaining him.
Nightengale states Hamilton's agent has already been meeting with other teams during the annual meeting of general managers, trying to get a feel for the market. The outfielder is reportedly looking for a deal in the neighborhood of seven years and $175 million.
If those requests are accurate, the Rangers aren't even in the same ballpark. General manager Jon Daniels isn't even expecting to talk with Hamilton or his representatives until next week, as he told Nightengale:
We'll visit with him probably next week. Whatever the process that they wanted to go through, they were going to do. I'll get a sense of that when Mike and I talk.
Outside of that, I'm kind of in the dark. I can't really say.
The concerns with giving Hamilton a long-term deal are clear. On the field, he's dealt with injury problems throughout his career, breaking the 150-game mark just once. Off the field, his problems with addiction have been well-documented.
Knowing that, there's clearly risk involved with giving him a deal that would take him through his age-38 season. Yet, with so many teams in search of the type of production he can provide, it's hard to imagine one won't take the leap of faith.
As is always the case during free agency, things can change quickly. However, the fact that the Rangers have never been viewed as the favorites to land Hamilton suggests they are going to remain pretty firm with their plans regarding the 2010 AL MVP.
Hamilton is coming off a season in which he hit .285 with 43 home runs, 128 runs batted in and 103 runs scored. His .930 OPS was the second-best mark of his career, although a spike in his strikeout rate suggests he was swinging for the fences more often in the final year of his deal.
It will be tough for the Rangers to replace those numbers, but the organization also knows better than any other what it would mean to lock him up for seven seasons.
Even though it's still early in free agency, it would now be a major surprise if Hamilton ended up back in a Rangers uniform next season.