Will Rangers let Josh Hamilton walk?

It wouldn't surprise many in baseball if Josh Hamilton has played his last game as a Ranger. Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT via Getty Images

Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told reporters that the team will let Josh Hamilton will test the open market before it makes a bid, Richard Durrett writes. And it's not even clear if the Rangers will bid. From Durrett's story:

    "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."

Look, maybe this is the Rangers' polite way of exiting their employer-employee relationship with Hamilton, a source of tremendous production for the Rangers -- and extraordinary frustration because of his inconsistency and unreliability. Hamilton vowed to Texas manager Ron Washington before the season that he would play in 155 games this season, and he came close, accumulating 148 games. But his season was shaped by the highest peaks and deepest valleys of performance.

OPS for Hamilton this season, month by month

April: 1.182 (third among all hitters)

May: 1.186 (second)

June: .754 (102nd)

July: .607 (229th)

August: .943 (25th)

September: .948 (22nd)

October: .385 (13 at-bats)

Rival evaluators note the seeming lack of day-to-day focus in Hamilton's at-bats, and it would shock no one around baseball if the Rangers decided to walk away from Hamilton altogether.

But if the Rangers intend to bid on Hamilton in some manner -- perhaps a two- or three-year deal with a high annual salary and vesting options -- then sitting and waiting for other teams to make offers is the best way to handle this, because other potential bidders will watch Texas closely.

The assumption around baseball is that the Rangers know far more about Hamilton, his erratic performance and his fight against addiction than anybody else. They know more about his daily preparation, about his game-to-game readiness, about the odd ailments that have kept him out of the lineup.

Imagine if this were a neighborhood game of Texas Hold 'em and a poker superstar like Phil Hellmuth showed up. The Rangers would be Hellmuth: Everybody else would be watching the way he played his hand, the way he bid, the way he stayed out of bidding, because they'd believe he was armed with far more knowledge.

If the Rangers were to bid aggressively on Hamilton early in this process, they would effectively provide confidence for everybody else sitting at the table. But the longer they wait, the more passive they are in negotiations, and the more nervous and concerned other potential bidders will be. If Texas ultimately wants to keep Hamilton, it makes no sense for the Rangers to push this, in what one rival GM recently referred to as the most unique set of circumstances for an elite free agent in baseball history.

The Rangers are recovering from their late-season collapse, and Washington seized responsibility for what happened, writes Jean-Jacques Taylor.

Rangers president Nolan Ryan says the timing of Hamilton's decision to quit smokeless tobacco couldn't have been worse.