The first significant deadline of the off-season arrived Friday, and, as expected, the Texas Rangers made a qualifying contract offer to free agent Josh Hamilton and passed on catcher Mike Napoli.
But that wasn't the biggest news during an afternoon conference call with general manager Jon Daniels, who somewhat matter-of-factly said that Alexi Ogando will be in the 2013 starting rotation.
Though the decisions are hardly a shocker, they help shape how the Rangers will go forward with their plans for next season.
The Rangers need one more starter and will attempt to lure one via free agency. Their top target is Zack Greinke, the best starter on the free-agent market, but their top off-season priority is to reshape the bullpen and find a catcher.
That could be Napoli, but not at the predetermined qualifying price tag of $13.3 million.
"We determined we didn't want to start the off-season making that investment at that dollar number," Daniels said. "But I don't want to sit here and say anything bad about Mike. We have a number of things we want to do, and we want it all to work together."
The Rangers made Napoli a three-year, $38 million offer last winter, which he declined after a career-best 2011 season. But he struggled in 2012, hitting 93 points lower at .227.
With Geovany Soto as the only veteran catcher on the roster, the Rangers need someone else to carry the load.
"It's not a good year to need catching, and we're aware of that," Daniels said. "We're going to look at all of our options, free agency and trades."
Hamilton received the qualifying offer essentially as a formality. If he accepts by the 4 p.m. deadline Nov. 9, he would be taking a slight pay cut from his 2012 salary and would forfeit all chances of a multiyear offer from another club.
As such, the Rangers expect him to decline the offer, and they would receive draft-pick compensation should he sign elsewhere. They would also seek out a big bat, but Daniels acknowledged that replacing Hamilton's production (43 homers, 128 RBIs in 2012) would be a nearly impossible task.
"You can count on one hand the guys that you can truly replace Josh with, and I don't expect any of them to be available," Daniels said. "I don't think we can approach it that way. If Josh is not back, we're not going to try to replace him. We'll just try to put the best team we can on the field."
The Rangers can counter the lost run production by allowing fewer runs. That's where Ogando fits in, back in the role that he parlayed into an All-Star appearance in 2011.
He took one for the team in 2012 by returning to the bullpen as Neftali Feliz was given a rotation shot. But with Feliz and Colby Lewis out until the summer, the Rangers need Ogando and another starter to help keep pace on the mound.
A source said that the Rangers will be serious players for Greinke, the 2009 Cy Young winner who finished last season with Anaheim.
If nothing else, the Rangers would be keeping him away from the Angels, who are expected to also be aggressive after parting ways with Ervin Santana and Dan Haren.
Daniels, though, likes the group of Ogando, Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison and Derek Holland.
"I don't think you're ever out of the market on starting pitching, and we're not," Daniels said. "We've got a pretty good core that we can go with if the right piece isn't out there to upgrade with."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760