ARLINGTON -- One of the Rangers' goals going into the offseason was to explore long-term contracts with some of their key players. Texas can completely focus its energy in that direction now that it has signed pitcher Yu Darvish and now that Prince Fielder is off the board.According to published reports, the Tigers have agreed to a nine-year, $214 million contract with Fielder. Rangers officials have been saying that it was "very unlikely" that they would be able to sign Fielder, and that proved to be true. The Rangers were never willing to go that many years or invest that much money on Fielder. The Rangers quietly were hoping that Fielder's asking price would drop to a point where they might be able to get involved. Instead, he reportedly has agreed to what would be the fourth largest contract in Major League history. The Rangers were told on Monday that they were out of the running. "Detroit is going to be tough," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said from the Dominican Republic. "It doesn't change the way we feel about our club."
New Prince of Detroit
The Rangers' biggest priority right now is outfielder Josh Hamilton, who can be a free agent after this upcoming season. The club is actively working with his agent, Michael Moye, on a possible contract extension that would prevent him from leaving, but an agreement does not appear imminent."I haven't heard anything," Hamilton said Monday night. "I'm not worried about it. It always comes back to trusting in the Lord. He'll have me where He wants me to be. That's why I'm not stressed out about it." Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine said the conversations are continuing. "He has been a big part of our club and a major contributor to what we have accomplished," Levine said. "When you get this close to free agency, there are a lot of things that have to be considered, both for the club and the player, and we're working through those." The Rangers have had varying degrees of long-term contract talks with other players, including Mike Napoli, Derek Holland, Ian Kinsler, Colby Lewis and possibly others. Talks with Napoli reached a point where both sides agreed to table discussions and focus on a one-year deal. "It's still a priority for us in the offseason to present multiyear contracts to some of our own players," Levine said. "Whether that bears fruit is a mutual decision between ourselves and the player. [The fact] that nothing has come of it yet has not been from a lack of effort." Napoli's arbitration hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15. He is asking for $11.5 million, while Rangers are offering $8.3 million. The Rangers also have arbitration hearings scheduled with Elvis Andrus on Feb. 9 and Nelson Cruz on Feb. 17. As far as first base, the Rangers remain high on Mitch Moreland, who is coming off wrist surgery. He may not be at full strength when Spring Training begins, but he is expected to be ready to go when games begin on March 4. The Rangers have signed Brad Hawpe to a Minor League contract as insurance in case Moreland is not ready. "What we're hearing is that he should be full-go, most likely, by the time the [exhibition] games start," Levine said. "We don't anticipate it being a meaningful setback as far as him being ready for the regular season." The Rangers could go to Spring Training with the team that they have, although there may be some changes to the bullpen. The Rangers have had multiple conversations with teams about Koji Uehara, but a deal doesn't appear likely. A trade with the Blue Jays appears to have fallen through. The Blue Jays instead have signed reliever Francisco Cordero. The Orioles have interest in bringing Uehara back to Baltimore, but a source said the sides are not close on a deal. The Rangers acquired Uehara for pitcher Tommy Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis on July 30.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.