Cold winter: Hamilton is latest loss for Rangers

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was talking before lunch

Thursday about the team still wanting to re-sign Josh Hamilton.

Just more than an hour later, after getting a call from

Hamilton’s agent, Daniels was telling the same group of reporters

that the five-time All-Star slugger and 2010 AL MVP had agreed to a

deal with the AL West rival Los Angeles Angels.

So far, it has been that kind of offseason for Texas.

Zack Greinke, the top free-agent pitcher also targeted by the

Rangers, chose the Los Angeles Dodgers instead last weekend.

”Now we go back and look at some of our other options,”

Daniels said after getting word that Hamilton was suddenly gone,

too.

”We’ve talked all along that we want to play some of our own

guys. We were hoping to do it alongside Josh, and I liked the idea

of our young players playing with some of our established guys,”

the GM said. ”We still have a very good nucleus, but it is what it

is. He’s a big part of the club the last few years, and now he’s on

the other side.”

All-Star right-hander James Shields, another pitcher Texas

likely would have been interested in pursuing in a trade, was

instead dealt from Tampa Bay to Kansas City. And the Arizona

Diamondbacks have said now that it’s ”highly unlikely” they will

deal young slugging outfielder Justin Upton after a three-team

trade this week that got the Diamondbacks a desired shortstop.

The Rangers have been to the playoffs three consecutive seasons,

but last year dropped a winner-take-all wild-card game at home to

Baltimore after losing the division title to Oakland on the last

day of the regular season. They went to the previous two World

Series.

When Rangers president Nolan Ryan was asked Thursday to assess

the offseason so far, he responded, ”It hasn’t probably gone as we

had hoped to this point.”

And that was before agent Michael Moye called the Rangers with

Hamilton’s decision.

”We still feel like we have a good ballclub and we feel like

we’re in a good position,” Ryan said. ”So I don’t think that

we’re feeling like any pressure to go out and make something

happen.”

Michael Young, the longest-tenured player in Texas with 12

seasons, was traded to Philadelphia last week for two young

relievers. Two Rangers free agents, catcher Mike Napoli and

reliever Koji Uehara, have reached agreements with Boston.

With Young and Napoli gone, the Rangers could be ready to give

rookie infielder Jurickson Profar a chance. One possible scenario

is for Profar to take over at second base and Ian Kinsler to switch

to first base – where Young and Napoli split some time.

”There are different ways that we can go,” Daniels said about

Kinsler in his initial talk Thursday with reporters. ”But there’s

a reasonable chance we go that way and ask him to move to

first.”

Profar turns 20 in February, the same age shortstop Elvis Andrus

was when he made his major league debut in 2009 after never playing

above the Double-A level. Profar was called up by the Rangers at

the end of last season, playing second base and shortstop in his

nine games.

The Rangers could also find more playing time for another top

prospect, infielder Mike Olt, who was hurt while spending the last

two months of the season in the majors.

Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre has three years left on

his deal from when he was the big free-agent addition two years

ago.

With Hamilton gone, the Rangers still have Nelson Cruz in right

field and David Murphy in left. Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin

could possibly platoon in center.

”We like our guys, we like our club,” Daniels said. ”Is there

room to improve? Absolutely. We don’t want to do it as to overreact

and do something for the wrong reasons. … We’re trying to make

good baseball decisions, give (manager Ron Washington) and the team

the best chance we can headed into the year.”

Yu Darvish, the headline addition from Japan last winter, heads

up the rotation after an impressive All-Star transition to the

majors. There is also All-Star left-hander Matt Harrison, lefty

Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando, going back to the rotation after a

season in the bullpen following his All-Star season as a starter in

2010.

Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, two other potential starters,

will begin next season still recovering from elbow surgery. Texas

could fill the gap by letting young guys compete for a rotation

spot.

”We feel that when you look at our pitching staff, we’re going

into spring training with some experienced guys that we have a real

feel for,” Ryan said. ”We’re always looking to improve the

pitching. We’ve tried to do some things that haven’t worked out

this winter so far, so we’ll keep grinding away with it.”

But what if the Rangers aren’t able to add another starting

pitcher?

”If we had to go to spring training with the staff we have,”

Ryan said, ”yeah, I’d be comfortable with it.”