Rangers haven't ruled out Josh Hamilton's return

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- By now everyone knows the official company line from the Texas Rangers regarding Josh Hamilton.

The door is open for him to come back to the team where he became a superstar, but the Rangers are going to let him test the market and get back to them.

Nothing had changed Wednesday during the first day of the GM meetings at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, nor had the Rangers' top off-season priorities of acquiring a catcher and bullpen help.

But the hands-off approach to Hamilton and the fact that they don't see him as their No. 1 need has left an impression that the Rangers have already moved on from the five-time All-Star.

General manager Jon Daniels, though, debunked that notion and said that the Rangers are in on Hamilton.

"I think there's this perception out there that we don't want Josh back," Daniels said. "That's not accurate.

"We have to address our catching and our bullpen, just because we've got holes there. Josh is a different story. There's just not too many Josh Hamiltons out there. Josh is an impact player we'd love to have back, but we also have other good players in that spot."

Daniels has maintained contact with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye, so far this off-season, and might meet with him before these meetings wrap up Friday morning.

However, the Rangers have no feel for which way the Hamilton situation will go, nor will they wait for Hamilton to make a decision.

Team president Nolan Ryan, speaking to reporters at Rangers Ballpark, said time is not on Hamilton's side.

"I don't think you're sitting here saying, 'We'll wait until January,'" Ryan said. "I think it's just one of those deals that after this week, people will have a better feel for what people's level of interest is. You have to decide what's in your best interest."

Daniels agreed, and said that Hamilton hasn't held up the Rangers' progress so far. They have scenarios in place in which he returns and will move on a deal they like even if he is still unsigned.

The Rangers have even gone so far as to discuss with ownership the possibility that they max out the budget and later get an opportunity to sign Hamilton that makes sense.

"It's a unique situation," Daniels said. "It's somewhat dependent on their timing, what else we do, and ultimately what the market bears and what Josh wants."

The catching market will be competitive, and free agent Mike Napoli remains on the Rangers' radar even though they opted not to make him a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer last week.

The market for relievers typically is always tough, and the Rangers have to replace three -- Alexi Ogando, who was added to the rotation, and free-agent right-handers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.

Daniels said that he isn't expecting Adams to return. He had been the Rangers' primary set-up man in the eighth inning since he was acquired at the July 31 trade deadline in 2011, but he is seeking a multi-year contract.

"I think Mike's earned the right and put up performances indicative of a substantial contract," Daniels said. "Historically we haven't done those kinds of deals [for relievers]."

There is interest in bringing back Uehara, Daniels said, and the club has discussed a minor league deal with Yoshinori Tateyama. The Rangers declined a $1 million option on Tateyama last month.

Among the potential outfielders the Rangers could chase to help replace Hamilton or upgrade the offense is Arizona right fielder Justin Upton.

The Diamondbacks are listening to offers on the 25-year-old, who has three years and $38 million left on his contract. Arizona would likely want a third baseman or shortstop and a starting pitcher in return.

Prosper resident Torii Hunter and Nick Swisher, both free-agent right fielders, are also players well-liked within the organization.

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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