CEO awaits Josh Hamilton decision

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Texas Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said the club can't afford to wait most of the offseason on free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton to make a decision.

"What you're going to have to do is I don't think you can sit around and say, 'We have to wait and see what happens with Josh,' " Ryan said to a small media gathering Wednesday at Rangers Ballpark. "We'll get a feel here shortly where we think that might be going, but also we have to be out there seeing what opportunities are out there, whether there's opportunities to improve the club.

"If you sit back and wait, you might miss an opportunity you might regret or feel like you could have done something and didn't get it done."

One of those opportunities could be Zack Greinke, the top free-agent pitcher on the market. The Rangers have four spots lined up in their rotation and are looking for another pitcher to add near the top of that staff.

"I think because of the need of pitching, there's going to be an awful lot of interest," Ryan said of Greinke. "When I look at him, I think he has a real feel for pitching. He's a command guy. He has a really good changeup."

Ryan heaped praise on Greinke, noting he feels the right-hander could stay healthy on a long-term deal.

"When I look at him, I don't get concerns about breaking down because he has a good delivery and it's effortless and he has a feel for pitching," Ryan said. "You'd probably feel stronger about him as far as a longevity candidate than maybe some of the power guys. That's my initial thoughts when I watch him."

Ryan said he has no gut feeling on whether Hamilton will return to Texas, partly because the market hasn't taken shape yet. Ryan believes the uncertainty is in the terms of the contract (how many guaranteed years) more than the yearly salary.

Ryan said the Rangers haven't put any hard parameters in place for what it might be willing to offer Hamilton. He said general manager Jon Daniels could end up talking with Hamilton's representatives at the GM meetings this week in Indian Wells, Calif.

"I think everybody in their mind has what their tolerance is, but is that where the market is going to be?" Ryan said. "I don't know. I think everybody probably figures that the number on a per annual basis, everybody can come up with a reasonable guess of what it's going to be. But are you looking at a (Prince) Fielder deal at nine years or a (Albert) Pujols deal for seven years? That's the
question that probably isn't answered yet and (we) don't have a feel for.

"When you get into those extremely long contracts, if something goes wrong, they can be very crippling to a ballclub. Those are things you have to evaluate."

Hamilton, the 2010 AL MVP, received a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer from the Rangers last week. The slugger, who made $13.75 million in 2012, is expected to reject it before Friday's deadline. But by making the offer, the Rangers will receive a supplemental pick in the 2013 draft should Hamilton sign with another team.

Hamilton has said he'd like to return to Texas and that the Rangers would get a chance to sign him once the offseason really heats up. Ryan said Friday that remains the agreement in place. Daniels said last week that he and the front office are looking at scenarios for a future with or without Hamilton.

"You can count them on one hand the guys you can truly replace Josh's production with, and I don't expect any of them to be available," Daniels said Friday. "It's going to have an impact if he's not back. If Josh is not back, we're not going to try to replace him. I don't think that's a productive way of going about it. We'll try to put the best team out there we can. I like our chances if Josh is back and we've got some work to do, but I like our chances if he's not."

Hamilton, 31, batted .285 with 43 homers and 128 RBIs in 148 games in 2012. It was the most games he's played since 2008, his first full year in the majors.

Prospective teams must not only consider Hamilton's past -- he's dealt with drug and alcohol addiction -- but also his overall health. He's had a variety of injuries and ailments that have kept him from consistently playing full seasons. But when he is healthy, he's productive and can impact a game in a variety of ways.

He won AL MVP in 2010 despite missing most of September with cracked ribs. Hamilton batted .359 with 32 homers and 100 RBIs that season while helping the Rangers make it to the franchise's first World Series. Hamilton was also ALCS MVP that postseason.