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Rangers keeping contact with Hamilton

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has maintained contact with Josh Hamilton's agent, and said Thursday that the slugger's free agency process has gone as expected so far.

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``I think the interest has been consistent,'' Daniels said. ``The process that we agreed to really back in the spring, when we tabled negotiations at that point, was that Josh was going to test the market and once he had a sense of that would circle with us, and I think he's still in that process.''

Speaking on a conference call in advance of next week's winter meetings, Daniels said that it has worked out well for the Rangers since they are still sorting through some options. But along with that upcoming gathering in Nashville, there are more trades and free-agent signings being made around the league.

``The market's starting to move,'' Daniels said. ``I would think things on both Josh's end as well as on our end, things we're looking at, I would expect things will start moving a little bit.''

Hamilton is a free agent for the first time after hitting a career-high 43 home runs with 128 RBIs in 148 games this past season for Texas. The 2010 AL MVP has hit .304 with 161 homers in his six major league seasons, the last five with the Rangers.

In the meantime, catching and the bullpen are priority issues for the Rangers.

Mike Napoli, who has spent the past two seasons in Texas, is a free agent who has drawn interest from Boston, Seattle and possibly other teams. He met with the Rangers on Wednesday.

The Rangers also ended last season with catcher Geovany Soto. The deadline for teams to offer 2013 contracts is 11 p.m. CST Friday. If Texas can't reach agreement with him by then, the Rangers likely would fail to offer a contract and allow him to become a free agent rather than face the possibility of salary arbitration.

Soto made $4.3 million last season and hit .196 with five homers and 25 RBIs in 47 games for the Rangers after being acquired July 30 from the Chicago Cubs.

``There are just so few guys available that I'm not sure that we're going to have our long-term answer at catcher this offseason,'' Daniels said.

When asked if the Rangers needed to try to improve their rotation or were comfortable with what they have, Daniels said they are always open-minded to upgrading their starters.

``Do we have to? Not necessarily, but it's something we're looking at,'' Daniels said.

While the GM didn't offer any specific names from outside his organization, the Rangers are expected to have interest in free agent right-hander Zack Greinke.

Texas already has All-Stars Yu Darvish, their primary addition last offseason, and Matt Harrison in their rotation, along with Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. Ogando was a 13-game winner and All-Star as a starter in 2011 before moving back to the bullpen last season. As of now, the fifth starter would be determined by ``competition of guys in house,'' Daniels said.

Two other starters, Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz, will still be recovering from right elbow surgery when the 2013 season begins. Lewis had surgery July 27 to repair a torn flexor tendon, and Feliz had ligament transplant surgery Aug. 1.

If Hamilton signs with another team, Daniels said that wouldn't necessarily make outfield a bigger priority the rest of the offseason. He said they could add another outfielder, but ``that wouldn't necessarily be our first priority.''

Daniels reiterated comments he made earlier this offseason that the Rangers aren't being held up from making other deals because of the uncertainty surrounding Hamilton while the slugger and agent Mike Moye work through free agency.

``If we're in a spot where we've got another decision that's more timely that we've got to make, we'll make that call,'' Daniels said. ``And if we need to push up our side of the timetable with Josh, we can do it at that point. But we're not in that spot yet.''

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