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Star-Telegram.com

Rangers test water by talking to Prince Fielder

Posted Friday, Jan. 13, 2012

By Jeff Wilson

jwilson@star-telegram.com

When Los Angeles signed free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson within the same hour on the final day of the winter meetings, Texas Rangers officials and players said that the Angels were trying to play catch-up.

No counterpunch mega-signing was needed, nor would one be sought.

On that same December day, it was announced that Yu Darvish would be posted, and the Rangers won the rights to negotiate with the Japanese right-hander 10 days later.

That process is going well enough that Rangers president Nolan Ryan has said that he expects that a deal with be completed by the 4 p.m. Wednesday deadline to sign Darvish.

Then, Friday arrived, and the Rangers again dipped their toes in the deep end of the off-season market by meeting with free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder.

A source confirmed the meeting at the Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas, but no one seemed to definitively know the Rangers' intentions.

General manager Jon Daniels declined comment.

The source, though, said that Fielder is the Rangers' backup plan if an agreement can't be reached with Darvish. The Rangers could also be preparing for the possible departure of former American League MVP Josh Hamilton.

Signing Darvish and Fielder to counter the Wilson-Pujols combination the Angels landed Dec. 8 seems to be less of a possibility, according to another source, even though principal owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis showed a willingness to open their wallets when they agreed to pay a $51.7 million posting fee if the Rangers sign Darvish. The fee and the contract could total more than $120 million.

With a new TV deal worth as much as $3 billion over 20 years set to kick in for the 2015 season, money doesn't appear to be as big of an issue as club officials made it out to be earlier in the off-season.

"Owners get competitive, too," a baseball official said.

The Rangers have projected what Fielder could do at Rangers Ballpark, and love the potential numbers the left-handed slugger could amass in the hitter-friendly right field.

Fielder is seeking a long-term deal that rivals the 10-year, $240 million pact Pujols signed with Los Angeles, and agent Scott Boras has said that he isn't interested in getting a short-term, money-heavy deal that would give his 27-year-old client another crack at free agency.

Even though the only other suitors are Washington and Seattle with six weeks remaining until spring training, Boras hasn't come off his asking price.

That's probably too much for the Rangers to consider, even if Darvish passes or if Hamilton, who can be a free agent after the season, staggers the Rangers with high contract demands.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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