At this point, it will be an upset if the Texas Rangers do not land one of the top two free agents.
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Could be outfielder Josh Hamilton. Could be right-hander Zack Greinke. Could be neither, likely will not be both.
The Rangers are competing for both players, major-league sources say, while also continuing to engage in trade discussions for Arizona right fielder Justin Upton, Tampa Bay right-hander James Shields and others.
The team’s goal: To land both a star pitcher and a star hitter.
Some in the industry believe the Rangers’ preference is Greinke, saying that the team president, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, always wants a pitcher first.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, however, remain the front-runners for Greinke, and are likely to offer the largest financial package, sources say.
Greinke, 29, also might prefer to return to the National League rather than pitch in a hitter-friendly park in the AL. But if he chooses the Dodgers, the Rangers will be in position to pivot quickly.
The team has made progress with Hamilton, sources say. A deal, if reached, likely would be for four or five years with multiple options. But it is still possible that another team could beat the Texas offer.
Hamilton, 31, tweeted a photo Tuesday night of himself and his wife, Katie, leaving the meetings. He and his agents met with the Seattle Mariners in Nashville, sources say, and possibly other clubs as well.
If the Rangers sign Hamilton, they likely will increase their efforts to acquire Shields or another pitcher. Their talks with the Rays for Shields are not in an advanced stage, sources say.
Upton, meanwhile, also remains an option, but only if the Rangers part with shortstop Elvis Andrus, something they have not yet indicated a willingness to do.
The Diamondbacks spoke about Upton with the Rangers, Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners on Tuesday, a source told FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi. But the D-backs stand a better chance of trading outfielder Jason Kubel than Upton, another source said.
Kubel is under contract for $7.5 million next season with a $7.5 million club option for 2014, making him a bargain considering the way free-agent prices are skyrocketing.
The Atlanta Braves recently signed outfielder B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75.25 million deal and the Boston Red Sox reached agreement Tuesday with Shane Victorino on a three-year, $39 million contract.
Upton, 25, also is becoming more affordable by the minute — he is owed $38.5 million over the next three seasons, less than Victorino. The difference: Upton is seven years younger and possesses considerably more upside.