Rangers play waiting game on Josh Hamilton

Nothing much has changed on the Josh Hamilton front, at least from the Texas Rangers' perspective, more than a month into his first off-season as a free agent.

The plan, agreed upon in May by the club and Team Hamilton, was for the star outfielder to test the market and get back to the Rangers with an offer for them to beat.

That hasn't happened, according to general manager Jon Daniels. He has maintained contact with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye, but the landscape looks the same as it did the last time Daniels held court with the media.

"About the same as it was in our last conference call, just a couple weeks later," he said Thursday.

But business is picking up with the winter meetings only days away. Hamilton remains the biggest name available this off-season, and the Rangers remain players for him.

Daniels said that Hamilton's decision isn't dictating the Rangers' off-season. But while he waits out an offer, other outfielders are finding new teams and the Rangers have considered the possibility of not addressing their outfield if Hamilton doesn't return.

"I don't know that if Josh isn't back, we're not in a situation where we need to add an outfielder," Daniels said. "We may, but that wouldn't necessarily be our first priority."

Daniels said that the club is "very comfortable" with an outfield mix of David Murphy and Nelson Cruz on the corners and Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry in center field.

Cruz had an inconsistent 2012 season, at the plate and in the field, but managed to collect career-highs in doubles (45) and RBIs (90).

Murphy became an everyday player in August, when he hit a robust .366 before cooling to .271 in September. He finished at .304, 10th in the league, and was one of three finalists for the Gold Glove in left field.

"It's hard to argue against him," Daniels said. "David's one of the most consistent guys we have. He had a lot of quality at-bats for us in big spots, and handled himself well against left-handers."

Cruz and Murphy, though, can become free agents after the 2013 season. If the Rangers don't add an outfielder this off-season, they almost certainly will have to in 12 months.

Torii Hunter and B.J. Upton are two prominent free-agent outfielders who have signed with new teams this month. Nick Swisher, who can also play first base, could rate as the next-best available behind Hamilton.

Hamilton is interested in returning to the Rangers, who have interest in getting him back. Daniels is expecting some movement Monday through Thursday at the winter meetings in Nashville.

"The process that we agreed to back in the spring ... so far has worked out well for us because we're still sorting through some of our options," Daniels said. "My sense is that the market is starting to move. I would think things on Josh's end and our end would start moving as well.

"If we're in a spot where we've got another decision that's more timely that we've got to make, we'll make that call. If we need to push up our side of the timetable with Josh, we can do it at that point. But we're not in that spot yet."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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