The maximum length the Texas Rangers are willing to re-sign free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton for is three years, making the likelihood the 2010 American League MVP will return to the team slim, USA Today Sports has reported, citing a high-ranking team official.
The Rangers made a qualifying offer for Hamilton last week at slightly below the $13.75 million that he received in 2012, a deal he declined Friday.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has said his club is mapping out scenarios for life with and without Hamilton, in case he doesn't return.
"We'll visit with him probably next week," Daniels said, according to the USA Today report. "Whatever the process that they wanted to go through, they were going to do. I'll get a sense of that when Mike (Moye, Hamilton's agent) and I talk.
"Outside of that, I'm kind of in the dark. I can't really say."
Beyond expressing a desire to bring Hamilton back, CEO Nolan Ryan said Wednesday the length of the contract was tougher to gauge.
Hamilton is seeking a long-term deal in his first foray into the free-agent market. The qualifying offer allows the Rangers to receive a supplemental first-round draft pick in 2013 should he sign elsewhere.
The Rangers plan on talking with Moye in more detail soon. Ryan said Wednesday that he had no gut feeling on whether Hamilton would re-sign until the market for the outfielder came into better focus.
Ryan also said the club can't afford to wait all offseason for Hamilton to make a decision.
"I don't think you can sit around and say 'We have to wait and see what happens with Josh,'" Ryan said. "We'll all get a feel here shortly where we think that might be going, but also we have to be out there seeing what opportunities are out there, whether there's opportunities to improve the club.
"If you sit back and wait, you might miss an opportunity you might regret or feel like you could have done something and didn't get it done."
Hamilton, 31, hit .285 with 43 homers and 128 RBIs in 148 games in 2012. It was the most games he's played since 2008. Hamilton has been a mainstay at the No. 3 spot in the Rangers' order since the club traded Edinson Volquez to get him prior to the 2008 season.
Hamilton has battled injuries throughout his career, something that would make the club hesitant to give him a very long contract.