The Texas Rangers made a $13.3 million qualifying offer Friday to Josh Hamilton, ensuring them draft-pick compensation if the slugger signs with another team.
It was an expected move by the Rangers, who are sure Hamilton won’t accept the one-year offer. That doesn’t change the offseason plan for both, with the 2010 AL MVP exploring free agency and likely to discuss the possibility of a new deal with Texas.
The Rangers didn’t make qualifying offers to All-Star catcher Mike Napoli or five other free agents.
General manager Jon Daniels said there is mutual interest in Napoli returning for a third season with Texas. Talks will continue with his agents, but the Rangers weren’t willing to commit $13.3 million to Napoli, who made $9.4 million this year when he hit .227 with 24 homers and 56 RBI in 108 games.
”We’d like to have Nap back, but at the predetermined figure we weren’t comfortable there,” Daniels said. ”We’re going to continue to talk and the door’s very much open.”
The fixed $13.3 million is the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players in baseball by average annual value.
Texas didn’t make offers to right-handers Mike Adams, Scott Feldman, Mark Lowe, Yoshinori Tateyama or Koji Uehara. The team can still negotiate with those players, but would receive no compensation if they left for other teams.
Hamilton hit a career-high 43 homers and drove in 128 runs this season, his fifth in Texas. He batted .285 despite a two-month slump in the middle of the season, and is one of the top free agents on the market.
Hamilton and other players who got qualifying offers have until next Friday to accept them. Assuming that Hamilton rejects it, the Rangers will receive an extra selection immediately following the first round of next June’s amateur draft if he signs somewhere else.
”If Josh were to accept that — there should be no chance of that realistically if you’re him, it’s actually a cut of what he made,” Daniels said. ”It’s an easy decision to offer. It doesn’t preclude us from continuing to talk.”
The Rangers and Hamilton put contract negotiations on hold earlier this year with the expectation that the outfielder would test the free-agent market.
During a conference call with reporters, Daniels said the Rangers would be focused on catching and the bullpen during the offseason. He then said the Rangers planned to put Alexi Ogando back in the starting rotation next spring.
Ogando was a 13-game winner and an All-Star in 2011 after making the transition from the bullpen to the rotation at the end of spring training that season because of injuries to others.
When the Rangers signed Yu Darvish and closer Joe Nathan last winter, and decided to move Neftali Feliz to the rotation, they moved Ogando back into a setup role and he had a 3.27 ERA in 58 appearances. Now, he will get another chance as a starter.
”He earned that a year ago and then some of the moves we made with Joe (Nathan) and how that affected Neftali and with Darvish, Alexi agreed to go back to the bullpen,” Daniels said. ”I thought he handled that extremely well, team first. This guy’s an All-Star starter in essentially his rookie debut in that role. He’s a strike thrower and he wants to do that.”