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W2W4: Rangers at Winter Meetings

12/3/2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's time for the annual MLB Winter Meetings. This year, the event takes place at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention center, home to a ridiculously large lobby (a few of them, actually). Things begin Monday morning and finish Thursday with the Rule 5 draft. In between, Twitter could blow up and you'll hear more rumors than the last few months combined.

But that's all part of the fun.

So what should Texas Rangers fans keep an eye on? Here's a brief look:

* Josh Hamilton. He's the biggest slugger on the market and will command all kinds of attention this week. His agent, Mike Moye, is an under-the-radar guy, so how much actual information about Hamilton's market gets chatted about in the lobby remains to be seen. But this is the time that teams may start to make a move on offers or at least be able to get a better idea of exactly what Hamilton's market looks like. The Rangers want Hamilton back, but they want him back under terms they feel make financial sense now and in the long-run. What does that mean? Sometimes the rhythm of the Winter Meetings can force clubs to look hard at their comfort zones. Does that mean four guaranteed years for Hamilton? What about five? Would Texas need to even go that high to get him? Stay tuned. (Hamilton apparently flew to Nashville on the same flight as GM Jon Daniels. No, they didn't get a deal done).

* Zack Greinke. The Rangers are interested and, according to this CBSSports.com report, have already met with Greinke's representatives. The Angels, Dodgers and more could jump in the running. There's lots of talk about the Dodgers and what they might be willing to spend and the fact that Greinke might like the ballpark. But I think the ballpark argument is overrated. Greinke has a 2.84 ERA in nearly 80 innings at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and he'd have one of the best lineups in the league behind him. Texas is attractive. It could come down to whether the Dodgers break the bank. BTW, don't count out the Angels. Everyone learned that last year.

* Starting pitching. It's always a priority for this club. There are other pitchers out there -- via free agency or trade -- than Greinke. The name drawing lots of chatter the past few days is R.A. Dickey. The former Ranger is owed $5 million for 2013, but the New York Mets want to sign him to an extension. If they can't, it makes sense for them to see what they could get in return for the Cy Young Award winner. The Rangers could end up talking with the Mets about Dickey, especially if they don't feel like things end up looking good on the Greinke front (MLB.com reports the Rangers are interested in trading for Dickey). ... There are other things that could get thrown in the air, too. What about >David Price or James Shields? Is there something that could entice the Rays? But with one spot open in the rotation and the Rangers hoping to fill it with a high-tier starter, look for them to get creative if the free-agent market is out of their price range.

"I think you’re always on the lookout for pitching," general manager Jon Daniels said last week. "You’re always open minded to upgrade there. Do we have to? Not necessarily. But it’s something we’re looking at."

* Catcher. Late Sunday night, the Rangers got a bit of clarity at the position, agreeing to terms with Geovany Soto on a deal for 2013, according to a source. They would still like to bring Mike Napoli back. Napoli and his agent, Brian Grieper, met with the Rangers on Wednesday. It's likely they'll hook up at some point this week, too. That could come down to how many years Napoli can get and how many the Rangers want to go. But that's also not the only consideration and judging by Napoli's comments this winter, if the deals are close, he'd like to come back to Texas. The Rangers need him. And if it isn't him, they need catching. That will be on the agenda this week (in a thin catching area for free agents, so trades are possible there too). The Toronto Blue Jays have a surplus of catching and could look to unload John Buck or J.P. Arencibia. A.J. Pierzynski is still on the market, but Russell Martin isn't after he signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday.

"It’s a little bit of a game of musical chairs," Daniels said. "There’s limited supply as far as guys available. We’re still looking at our options."

* Outfield. If Hamilton doesn't return, the Rangers can look at other options. Be prepared to hear the name Justin Upton talked about in the lobby. Various reports say the Arizona Diamondbacks want a high price for Upton, but sometimes prices can change. The Rangers have the pieces to do a deal if they choose. That could be one of the Plan B's if Hamilton goes elsewhere.

* Bullpen. The Rangers have a closer in Joe Nathan, but they are looking for candidates to fill the late-inning spots to get the ball to him. Alexi Ogando is off that list as he's slated to join the rotation. The club would like to bring Koji Uehara back if possible. They've signed a few candidates who can compete for jobs this spring, but are looking for help in that area.

"The bullpen market is a little different because relievers come in all shapes and sizes," Daniels said. "They come in all places. A lot of times it’s not the heralded name or big free-agent signing that wins the day at the end. It’s the change of scenery guy or the guy coming of injury or a pitch or grip and someone figures it out."

* It seemed as if the Rangers were quiet at last year's meetings, as big names like C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols went off the board. But that week was actually a big one for Texas, who held meetings with its two principal owners about bidding for Yu Darvish. Still, Nashville is the place where conversations can heat up and seeds are planted that can blossom a week or a month from now.

"I would expect things would start moving a little bit now," Daniels said.