KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The eight Texas Rangers All-Stars weren't hard to find Monday afternoon during the 45-minute media free-for-all.
They occupied one side of a large open room, spanning from Yu Darvish to Josh Hamilton, and each of the eight players sat at his own raised table as media types from all platforms stopped by with questions.
There was no doubt that Hamilton would be asked about his future beyond this season and which major league uniform he would be wearing next season.
Nothing is new there, he said, since he and the Rangers mutually decided to shut down negotiations a few months ago. But things aren't as they were made to seem after a Sports Illustrated story gave the impression that he and the Rangers might not be a match after all.
"We love Texas," Hamilton said. "We'd love to stay in Texas."
But the possibility exists that Hamilton, the leading vote-getter for tonight's 83rd All-Star Game and a fan-driven starter for five consecutive years, could be representing a different team in 2013.
His focus is on the rest of the 2012 season, and his thoughts are only on the off-season after the media brings it up. His teammates, though, aren't too wild about the prospect of the 2010 American League MVP playing somewhere else next year.
"I don't know if I want to think about it," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "It's not frightening, but it's not fun and it's not easy to think about.
"He's one of the premier sluggers in our game, and he's right in the middle of our lineup. On top of that, he does a lot of the things that the game asks you to do and does them very well. Not too many teams have the luxury of having that kind of player in their lineup."
Hamilton was asked very quickly into media day about the status of contract talks.
The Rangers met with agent Mike Moye at Rangers Ballpark in April, on the day that Kinsler signed a six-year deal for $90 million, but not enough progress was made then or in the next few weeks for the sides to keep working toward an extension.
Free agency is almost certainly ahead, though Hamilton has granted Moye the freedom to purse a deal if the Rangers reach back out to him. If not, the Rangers will be first in the free agency pecking order.
He's an elite talent, and elite talent doesn't come cheap.
A fast start to this season, in which Hamilton was the league's Player of the Month in April and May, sent speculation about his contract soaring toward $25 million a year.
"It's not like we're going to run off to free agency and give everyone else a shot before the Rangers," Hamilton said. "There's that loyalty there. Right now, I'm just focusing on the task at hand.
"They get the first shot. They had a shot earlier this year and didn't really take it. We kind of shut down talks, mutual agreement."
Joe Nathan had seen how good Hamilton is from afar during his time as Minnesota's closer. Now that they are Rangers teammates, Nathan is even more in awe of what Hamilton can do on the field and how he goes about his business.
The All-Star closer said that if Hamilton does leave, hopefully it will be to a National League club.
"That's a no-doubter, for sure, but let's just say he can't leave," Nathan said.
"He's a guy I know, being on the other side, completely changes the way you have to face that lineup. Everyone is paying attention when he's coming up in the order. He's a game-changer."
Third baseman Adrian Beltre has gone through free agency three times in his four-team career. He understands as well as any Rangers player the business side to free agency.
It's unpredictable, and it only takes one team to make Hamilton an offer he can't refuse.
"Who knows?" Beltre said. "We don't know. He doesn't know. Our front office doesn't know what's going to happen. I'd like to have him back, for sure, because it's tough to find a player like that. But that's beyond our control. Hopefully, everything will work out for us."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760