Josh Hamilton Rumors: Why the Texas Rangers Must Retain MLB's Top Free Agent

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Josh Hamilton Rumors: Why the Texas Rangers Must Retain MLB's Top Free Agent
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The Rangers' batting order just wouldn't be the same without Hamilton in the center of it.

According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, no team has been more aggressive in pursuing free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton than the Texas Rangers

After bearing the loss of slugger Mike Napoli (per John Heyman of CBS Sports), who recently signed with the Boston Red Sox, re-signing baseball's hottest free-agent commodity absolutely must be the Rangers' top priority this winter. 

Fortunately, that looks to be the case. 

Of course, it's not going to be easy. Hamilton is reportedly searching for big money (what a shocker). USA Today's John Perrotto reported in early November that he's looking for something like seven years and $175 million.

For a 31-year-old with durability concerns and a checkered past, any contract in the ballpark of what Hamilton is looking for seems highly unlikely. Texas would be silly to offer him that type of money.

But here's the thing: It's highly unlikely anyone else will, either. 

Hamilton is this year's big free-agent fish (as far as position players are concerned), and he knows there will be plenty of bait cast his way. There are a handful of teams expressing interest, and he even met with the Seattle Mariners (per Rosenthal and John Paul Morosi) at the MLB winter meetings. 

In 2012, he hit 43 long balls while knocking in 128 runs and scoring 103. He should be coveted. 

Even though seven years at $25 million a year seems outrageous (because it is), the Rangers would be wise to try and find a suitable alternative to make sure Hamilton stays put. 

Not only because Ron Washington simply cannot afford to fill out a lineup card in 2013 that doesn't include Hamilton's name, but letting him slip away to a potential AL Pennant contender would be a double whammy. 

Will the Mariners instantly become a threat to win the AL West if they bring Hamilton aboard? Doubtful. But with Oakland proving it can hang by winning the division in 2012, and the Angels remaining dangerous, the last thing Texas needs is Seattle breathing down its neck. 

Of course, there is no telling whether or not he would play in Seattle anyway, but the Rangers clearly don't care to find out. 

Watching him head to Boston or New York (Yankees) would be just as painful. We have to believe both the Red Sox and Yanks are legitimate contenders—they always are. 

It is possible that Texas would prefer to save its money to send Zack Grienke's way. The 29-year-old heads the list of free-agent starting pitchers and is certainly a very intriguing option. He's a former CY Young winner with a career ERA of 3.77. 

But he's younger than Hamilton and comes without baggage. Which means Greinke is the more likely of the two to rake in the big bucks. 

And that means the Rangers should be right there waiting if (and most likely when) Hamilton is forced to lower his unreasonable asking price.  

Does Texas need a solid addition to its pitching staff? Absolutely. But if Nolan Ryan is going to dole out $25 million a year (or anything close to it) to any one player, it should be Hamilton. 

USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported in early November that the Rangers won't offer Hamilton a contract for anything longer than three years, which will likely result in the two parting ways. 

As the winter meetings carry on, Texas may be reconsidering. 

I don't believe any team will give Hamilton seven years. But four or five? Probably so. 

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Beltre has flourished in Texas, but after 15 MLB seasons, how much gas is left in the tank?

Can Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz supply the power to drive in enough runs without Hamilton in the picture? Cruz is 32 and before this year hadn't played more than 128 games in any one year. Beltre has proven to be a wonderful addition but is heading into his 16th MLB season. 

Remember, when Josh Hamilton is locked in, he's the best hitter in baseball. Nobody can match his production when he's feeling it at the plate. 

Hamilton has gone completely cold at times, too, which is probably the only reason he isn't touted as the best in the game. But the guy finished behind only reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera in HR and RBI in 2012—in either league. He's hit more than 30 HR and 100 RBI in three of his past five seasons. 

The hot streaks more than compensate for the cold ones. 

If the Rangers intend on making a third World Series appearance in four years, they must find a way to re-sign Josh Hamilton. 

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