All's quiet at the Ballpark, but that won't last long

FORT WORTH, Texas - Just when it appeared this week the Texas Rangers might be throwing a first log on the Hot Stove fire, well....


Hold the lighter fluid.

Free-agent outfielder Torii Hunter decided Detroit would be his new baseball home, or better yet, the Tigers made Hunter an offer no 37-year-old could possible refuse.

Two years, $26 million. Is that crazy money? No. That’s just baseball free agency money. The only thing crazy would be the player turning it down.

Hunter, with his local residency up in Prosper and coming off a very good season with the Angels, was a person of interest to the Rangers, and the team was supposed to be meeting with him over dinner this week.

The Tigers’ offer canceled the reservation.

I can’t say for sure if the Rangers had no interest in Hunter at the price tag the Tigers’ offered, but I’d doubt it.

Hunter would have come here as a right fielder/DH, and while he would have been a fit, his arrival in Arlington would have also created roster logjams in the outfield and at DH.

But moving on, the highly anticipated/adventurous off-season for the Rangers has yet to take shape or form, although the process remains in the early stages. Give it about three weeks, however, and we should know much more.

The Rangers, even on a national basis, are considered one of the most must-watch Hot Stove teams, if not the No. 1 must-watch club this off-season.

The reason is obvious. No team has been better over the last three regular seasons, but suddenly there’s also a major transitional period that has arrived for the winter.

There was no argument with GM Jon Daniels when he told me a month ago, “It’s not realistic, because of age and economics, that a team stays together over a long period.... Even if we had gone back to the World Series this season, and won it, we’d be facing the same situation in this off-season.”

As a New York Giants fan because of his homeland upbringing, Daniels can certainly relate to the name Bill Parcells. Both, of course, relocated here, and it was Big Bill, upon his arrival at Valley Ranch, who reminded us of the real definition of the 5-11 Cowboys team he inherited.

When some suggested there was untapped talent on the roster, Parcells answered, “You ARE what your record says you ARE.”

That quote was immediately tattooed on local brains, mine included.

Right now, if you take the Cowboys, they are what the record says they are. Same for the Mavericks. And outside of the world championship season for the Mavs, I can’t think of another local team that hasn’t fit the quote over the years.

Yet, the Rangers of right now give us a good rebuttal to the Big Bill-ism.

The record says they are a 93-win team.

But once this off-season is over that 2012 team might not closely resemble the new team. And that might be for the better, or it might be for the....

OK, let’s trust in Nolan, Daniels, RonWash, ownership, etc. The recent track record is worthy of trust.

But again, a highly anticipated/adventurous off-season is materializing slowly, which was not unexpected.

The Daniels lid is on tight in Arlington, meaning leaks about off-season maneuvering aren’t popping up.

But there was interest in Hunter, we know that. A much bigger fish would be free-agent pitcher Zack Greinke, who comes with a six-figure price tag, and who also comes to free agency with the rival Angels “desperate” to re-sign him.

The Angels, still attempting to overtake the Rangers and return to the top of the AL West after three seasons, had the Oakland A’s become a successful challenger last season. And now the LAA’s once gold-plated pitching rotation is in shambles.

Only Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, coming off surgery, remain in the rotation.

The word from Anaheim is, yes, “desperate.” As in desperate to re-sign Greinke.

The Rangers will not make it easy. Greinke is in play in Arlington. The Rangers want him.

On the bat side of things, is a trade with the Diamondbacks for young outfielder Justin Upton a strong possibility?

The D-backs play down a willingness to deal Upton, and if they did, they want a shortstop in return. The Rangers won’t give up Jurickson Profar for him. Nor Elvis, I’d say.

But Upton is in play here. So might be free-agent outfielder/first baseman Nick Swisher, known to be a Ron Washington favorite from their days together on the A’s.

Of course, the biggest bat on the market belongs to Josh Hamilton, and while the possibility of Josh returning here remains at, oh, maybe, 25 percent, do know this:

Daniels has not cut ties with Josh, and from every indication, still has a desire to bring back Hamilton, depending, of course, on how the money finally settles out.

And exactly what kind of offers Josh will receive on the open market remains a big question in baseball.

Daniels, however, seems sincere in wanting to keep the door open for Josh, an opinion that differs from others in the organization. The disgust over Hamilton in early October hasn’t necessarily subsided, but cooler heads are now popping up.

Then again, does Hamilton, and his wife, even want to return? We still don’t know the true story on that, although Josh has repeatedly said publicly that he would return.

Baseball free agency is a slow-moving device by tradition. But by doing nothing thus far, the Rangers are probably right on schedule, aiming for the big business days of December.

The wait drags on.


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