NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tracking the Josh Hamilton negotiations on Tuesday was like trying to find your way around the twists and turns of Gaylord Opryland Resort and Conference Center.
In other words: You might think you'd found your way, only to discover you were going in circles.
We heard reports of the Texas Rangers closing in on a four-year deal that some in the lobby had at $100 or $120 million. It was termed "progress" and the momentum seemed to indicate things might get done soon.
Then general manager Jon Daniels said he hadn't met with Hamilton's agent, Mike Moye, since the winter meetings began. He said the only contact he's had was about when the two could possibly meet, which could come tonight or Wednesday.
But you get the sense the Rangers are preparing for something, whether that be Hamilton or Zack Greinke or something else. Dallas billionaire Ray Davis, the co-chairman of the board, was in the club's suite (which has turned into a conference room) when the media arrived for a nightly session with Daniels. Neil Leibman, a minority owner, is also in Nashville. Nolan Ryan, the club's CEO, is sitting in on some of the meetings as well.
Everyone needed to make the critical financial calls are in place, should they be called upon.
All along, the club has said that Hamilton would go out and test the market, get an idea of what that market looks like and then come back to them to see if there's something the two sides could agree upon. Have we reached that point yet? It's possible, though uncertain.
Hamilton tweeted out that he and his wife, Katie, were heading home. That's not surprising. Hamilton may have talked to the teams he needed to and now things are in the hands of Moye.
There is a sense, among team officials and others in the industry that the Rangers have emerged as frontrunners for Hamilton. It takes just one team to change that, of course. But there's no chatter in the lobby about a huge offer on the table from anyone for Hamilton. That could be Moye simply staying quiet and not letting anything out. Or it's possible that Hamilton, perhaps the most unique big-time free agent ever, isn't getting the longer-term offers that some thought he would.
If that's the case, it plays into the Rangers' hands. They want Hamilton back and have made that clear. But they also don't want to get caught in a longer-term deal than they are comfortable. Maybe that's three years guaranteed and a vesting option for a fourth year based on games played.
Perhaps the Rangers will be in a position to decide if they have to guarantee that fourth year to get him. Few have questioned that Hamilton will demand a top salary. It's just the years that matter, so maybe a higher AAV (average annual value) on that shorter-term deal is enough.
In the meantime, the Rangers continue to pursue Greinke. They want a top-tier rotation piece and he's the best one on the market. You wonder if they could do both Greinke and Hamilton. Maybe, but it would take big resources and some creativity, both of which the Rangers have proven the last few years that they have on their side.
Still, that seems like a long shot. But what if Greinke's camp decided he was ready to make a decision? Perhaps then, the Rangers put pressure on Hamilton to decide so that they can allocate the resources to Greinke if he says no? Or maybe the club is forced to simply choose one or the other, as we've discussed on this blog before.
Either way, the Rangers are exploring the two biggest free agent avenues to make the club better, while still talking to clubs about trades. Few teams toss as many balls in the air as the Rangers. We'll see which ones they catch.