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Friday, January 13, 2012
Is it Prince Fielder vs. Josh Hamilton?

By Richard Durrett



The news today about a meeting between Rangers' brass and free agent first baseman Prince Fielder isn't just about Yu Darvish. Read about the meeting here, BTW.

Some of you tweeted asking me if this was simply a case of the Rangers trying to create some leverage in the Darvish negotiations. And this probably can't hurt in that regard. But a source said Friday that the club is exploring all options and that Fielder is likely a backup plan if things with Darvish fall through. That's not to say the club couldn't afford both Darvish and Fielder. But that would likely depend on how the contract with Fielder is structured.

In other words: I can't see the Rangers giving Fielder an 8- or 10-year deal. But what about what ESPN.com's Buster Olney tweeted earlier today? He said an MLB executive figures that the Rangers, Cubs or Nationals want a contract structure of six years with an opt-out after three years at $22 to $24 million a year. That kind of deal does seem like it could make it easier for the Rangers to afford both.

But let's say Fielder is willing to take such a deal. Is that the end of a long-term contract possibility with Josh Hamilton? It would appear that way, wouldn't it?

Hamilton's contract is a very difficult one. When healthy, there a few players who make a greater impact that Hamilton. He does it in the field, on the bases and in the lineup. He's the 2010 AL MVP for a reason and, if you'll remember, won that despite missing the final month of the season. But with his injury history and the fact that he's 30 years old, how many years should the club be willing to go? If he stays healthy and plays at his usual high level in 2012, he's going to increase his value even more.

If it was a six-year deal that could get Fielder to Texas, would you want six years of Fielder, who turns 28 in May, or six years of Hamilton? That's probably the decision that faces Texas if they get to a point where they feel like they want to sign Fielder.

Fielder would still give them that big left-handed presence in the middle of the lineup and a solid, power hitter at first base with a track record for the first time since Mark Teixeira was traded. But if it means waving goodbye to Hamilton, do you do it?

The good news: You should trust the Rangers management team to make that decision. Their track record suggests they know what they're doing. But that's likely the question they are facing as they toss around the thought of Fielder.