Texas Rangers playing it close to the vest until dominoes start to fall

NASHVILLE -- The 2012 winter meetings might be remembered as the week that Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke and the Texas Rangers held baseball hostage by the deliberate way they went about their business.

Or maybe as the week that Twitter killed journalism.

Jon Daniels, for one, doesn't see the holdup that many others see in light of the Dallas meetings last year, when Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle signed lucrative deals.

The Rangers general manager said that 2012 is the norm, and like it or not, the big free agents this year aren't going to sign this week, barring any sudden developments today before everyone flees the Gaylord Opryland.

But the Rangers took the first step Tuesday night, meeting with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye. Daniels revealed that Wednesday, but nothing has changed to move the Rangers closer to a deal with the five-time All-Star.

Baseball is on hold, and accurate details about the dealings of the close-to-the-vest Rangers are tough to come by. That could be the case until the dominoes start to fall.

"We're trying to get the first one to fall," Daniels said. "So far, we're happy with some of the moves we've made, but as far as some of the ones that alter the direction that we'll go, that first domino hasn't fallen yet. Sitting here right now, I can't tell you which one it's going to be."

Team president Nolan Ryan didn't rule out that the Rangers could sign Hamilton and Greinke. The current budget doesn't have that flexibility, but principal owners Bob Simpson and Ray Davis would get the final say on a Hamilton-and-Greinke scenario.

The Rangers have also met with Casey Close, Greinke's agent, and are thought to be in the hunt with the two Los Angeles teams. Boston and Seattle met with Hamilton before he headed back to Texas.

Each player would cost the Rangers more than $20 million per season.

"It comes down to ownership and what the opportunities are," Ryan said. "If you did have the opportunities to sign those guys, we'd have to look at our budget and look where we are. If we were to surpass that number, Ray and Bob would have to approve that. I wouldn't say there's not a chance."

Daniels insists that the big-time free agents aren't keeping him from pursuing other possibilities.

The Rangers have entered into trade talks with Cleveland and Arizona in a deal that would send right fielder Justin Upton to Arlington, according to a major league source.

But Daniels, speaking in generalities, doesn't care for multi-team trades.

"Nobody does," he said. "The bottom line is it's hard to do a deal with two teams. If you add anything to that, it just adds a layer of difficulty to everything."

If Hamilton doesn't re-sign and an Upton trade can't be struck, the Rangers are prepared to go with David Murphy, Nelson Cruz, Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry as their outfielders. The price tag for free agent Nick Swisher has been deemed too high.

The Rangers were also talking to the New York Mets about reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, who started his career in Arlington. He and the Mets are not making much progress on a contract extension, and the Mets are listening to teams interested in a deal.

But the Rangers are not talking with Tampa Bay about right-hander James Shields. They were never certain the Rays wanted to part with the All-Star workhorse.

Catching and relief help remain needs, even though the Rangers re-signed catcher Geovany Soto and added right-hander Joakim Soria this week.

Only one of the free-agent catching options, A.J. Pierzynski, would be an everyday player. The Rangers are also looking at Miguel Olivo and Fort Worth native Kelly Shoppach to back up Soto.

Koji Uehara is a candidate to return to the bullpen on a one-year deal, but the right-hander has informed clubs that he wants a defined role before he signs.

But those potential moves aren't drawing the attention this week. The Rangers continue to chase stars of the winter meetings and could end up with both. It almost certainly won't be this week, as aggravating as that might be.

"When I leave these meetings, I'm always frustrated because things don't move to the level I'd like to see them move," Ryan said. "I'd like to go into the holidays feeling like we have a feel for what we're going to go into spring training with, and that's never the case."

Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @JeffWilson_FWST

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