Clubs have a chance to negotiate with their own prospective free agents, but Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said the team agreed with Hamilton's representatives that the slugger would test the market, so they'll wait to see how it shakes out.
"If you've gone this far, you're going to test the market," Daniels said. "The realities are when a guy goes out and tests the market and it's this close, you're not going to pre-empt it. I think he's going to go out and test the market and see what's out there and get back to us.
"No door has been closed. We're also very realistic about when a star player hits free agency at this point and the history of them returning to their original club. So we have to prepare both ways and prepare the club for the possibility that he's not back."
Hamilton, 31, just completed his fifth season in Texas and batted .285 with 43 home runs and 128 RBIs. But he struggled at the finish, missing five contests in a crucial six-game road trip because of vision problems diagnosed as ocular keratitis. Hamilton said too much caffeine was to blame, and when he cut down on his sports-drink consumption, his condition improved.
Hamilton didn't hit well as the season ended, and he had a memorable fielding error in the AL West-deciding game in Oakland, dropping a shallow fly ball in center field that turned a tie game into a 7-5 lead for the Athletics, who went on to win the game 12-5, and thus the division.
Hamilton was 0-for-4 in Friday's AL wild-card game loss to Baltimore, seeing eight pitches. He had six swinging strikes and struck out on three pitches as the tying run late in the game. But CEO Nolan Ryan said the Rangers won't let one bad stretch determine how they approach Hamilton in the offseason.
"I think Josh would have probably liked to have finished stronger, and we would have liked to have seen him finish stronger," Ryan said. "Will it impact our position going forward? No, I don't think so. I think we'll consider the entire season because it is an entire season that affects the outcome.
"They'll go out and see what the market will bear and we'll see where we are at some point in time."