Josh Hamilton gets qualifying offer
The Rangers did not make offers to any other free agents, including catcher Mike Napoli.
Szymborski: Let Hamilton Walk
The Rangers can fill other needs instead of paying a premium for Josh Hamilton, a player in decline, writes Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory. Story
Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, can talk to teams about offers starting at midnight. The Rangers' qualifying offer is slightly below the $13.75 million that Hamilton received in 2012, and he is expected to decline it by Nov. 9.
The Rangers made the offer so that if Hamilton leaves, they would at least get a compensatory pick in next year's MLB draft. That selection would come after the first round and in the order of how clubs finished this past season.
It doesn't mean the club can't negotiate with Hamilton this offseason, but both sides agreed they'd see what the market bears for the slugger before talking in detail. Rangers GM Jon Daniels said his club is mapping out scenarios for life with and without Hamilton, in case he doesn't return.
"You can count them on one hand that the guys you can truly replace Josh's production with, and I don't expect any of them to be available," Daniels said. "It's going to have an impact if he's not back. If Josh is not back, we're not going to try to replace him. I don't think that's a productive way of going about it. We'll try to put the best team out there we can. I like our chances if Josh is back and we've got some work to do, but I like our chances if he's not."
Texas decided not to make a qualifying offer to Napoli, who made $9.4 million in 2012. The club determined that $13.3 million was too high to pay for Napoli at this point. He hit .227 this past season with 24 homers and 56 RBIs. He was not able to match his numbers from 2011, which included a huge second half. Napoli ended up hitting .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs and then wasn't able to reach agreement on a multiyear deal prior to 2012.
More Texas Rangers coverage
For more news, notes and analysis of the Rangers, check out ESPN Dallas' Rangers Report. Blog
"He's been a big part of this club for a couple of years and we'd like to have him back," Daniels said. "But for the first move of the offseason to be effectively having him back at that number was not something we wanted to do right now. He may have declined (it). I would imagine they'll be a good deal of interest in him out there. You've got to be OK with it either way and we didn't want to start the offseason making that investment at that dollar number."
Daniels said he'll continue to talk to Napoli's agent about a deal. But both sides will see what his market looks like in the next weeks and months. It's the same situation with Hamilton.
Hamilton, 31, hit .285 with 43 homers and 128 RBIs in 148 games, his most since 2008.
Health is a big factor in determining what kind of guaranteed contract to give Hamilton. He's played in at least 148 games only twice in his 6½-year big-league career.
Hamilton has dealt with all kinds of ailments. But when healthy, he's produced. He won the 2010 AL MVP despite missing the final month with cracked ribs. He hit .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs that season as the Rangers reached their first World Series. He played in 121 games in 2011, missing nearly six weeks with a shoulder injury after diving headfirst at home plate early in the season. He played with injuries (a hernia and several torn adductors) in the 2011 postseason, one that ended for the Rangers with a Game 7 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hamilton has said the Rangers would get the first chance to sign him and that he wants to stay in Texas. But the free agent is open to other options as well.
"I always would love to stay here," Hamilton said moments after the club's 5-1 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild-card game earlier this month. "They understand that. They know that. When we talked earlier in the year, we didn't get things worked out, so we said we'd wait until the year was over. They obviously get first shot. I told them they'd get first shot at the end of the year. We'll see what happens."