Rangers Rumors: Texas Better off Overpaying for Josh Hamilton Than Justin Upton

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 13, 2012

A week ago, the Texas Rangers had plenty of options for what to do with their offseason besides re-signing Josh Hamilton. They could have signed Zack Greinke, traded for Justin Upton or done both.

Now, not so much.

Greinke has signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Arizona Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said on Tuesday, via Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, that it's "highly unlikely" Upton will be moved after the club's big trade with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.

The Rangers could still make a play for Upton, but the other option before them is to give in and re-up with Hamilton. Either way, a report that Ken Rosenthal filed on Monday rings true: The Rangers are either going to have to overpay Hamilton or overpay Towers for Upton.

Door No. 1 is the only door the Rangers should be willing to walk through now. T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com has reported that club is still very much enthused with the idea of bringing Hamilton back, and signing him rather than trading for Upton has become a no-brainer.

The question you may be asking right now is how it can be taken for granted that the Rangers can still get Upton. Didn't Towers just indicate pretty strongly that Upton is going to be sticking around?

He did indeed, but I'd take that with a grain of salt. Towers has every excuse to play hard to get after acquiring shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius from the Reds. With the club's need for a long-term answer at shortstop filled, Towers doesn't have to trade Upton for another one.

Towers took things even further by talking up Gregorius as a "young Derek Jeter" who has all the tools he needs to become a star shortstop. It could be that Towers actually believes these things—which are greatly exaggerated—but it could also be that he's daring would-be trade partners to offer him something better than what he already has.

Like, you know, Elvis Andrus. Ken Rosenthal has it on good authority that the Rangers may still be able to get Upton if they offer Towers their 24-year-old shortstop in a trade:

Rival exec: "I think TEX can get Upton if they do Andrus. I don't think KT will do it for less." Towers says moving Upton "highly unlikely."

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2012

Towers may not move Upton for less, but he certainly could move Upton for more than just Andrus. With Gregorius in tow, he has the leverage to demand a trade offer that he can't refuse.

The question the Rangers have to ask themselves is this: Why cough over a huge package of young players to get Upton when they can just cough up millions of dollars to bring back Hamilton?

Since the Rangers were seriously involved with Greinke, it's not exactly a secret that they have a ton of money lying around that they're willing to spend on a star player. Since they didn't spend it on Greinke, they can now spend it on Hamilton.

Hamilton has to like what he sees when he looks at the Rangers. Besides lots of cash, the Rangers have a need for a power-hitting outfielder and the guy at the top of their wish list may be unattainable. 

It gets better for Hamilton. There's a report out from 94WIP's Anthony Gargano that the Philadelphia Phillies have offered Hamilton a three-year deal, and Ken Rosenthal tweeted last week that the Mariners have discussed various three-year deals with him. Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com says that the Boston Red Sox still aren't completely out of the picture.

The Rangers are running short on options while Hamilton isn't, so he has some leverage in regard to a potential reunion. And since he's told the Rangers that they'll be given a chance to match any offer he gets, he may soon return to them with an offer better than any offer they may have already made him.

The gist of Rosenthal's Monday report bears repeating: It's either pay a fortune for Hamilton or pay a fortune for Upton.

Overpaying to land Upton in a trade would certainly solve the Rangers' need for a star hitter, but they'd still need a capable pitcher to take the spot they hoped would be occupied with Greinke.

They'd have money to spend on the free-agent market, but the best option available now is Anibal Sanchez. He's not in Greinke's class, and he's likely going to be drastically overpaid now that Greinke has set the bar so high for right-handers.

If the Rangers sign Hamilton, on the other hand...

The Rangers will have to commit a large chunk of their payroll space to Hamilton to bring him back, but the bright side would be that their tradeable assets would still be in place. They could use these assets to bring in an ace pitcher, such as 2012 National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

As I wrote on Monday, the Rangers would get the best of both worlds if they were to sign Hamilton and trade for Dickey. They'd get a hitter with 40-homer power and a pitcher with maybe the nastiest knuckleball in major league history. As a bonus, the cost for 2013 would be low, as Dickey is only owed $5 million next season.

Dickey isn't the only starter the Rangers could go after. They could hit up the Atlanta Braves for one of their surplus starters, or the Dodgers for one of theirs. They could see if the Chicago Cubs are willing to move Matt Garza or maybe even Jeff Samardzija. They could call the Indians and see if Justin Masterson is on the table even after their big trade.

It would be more difficult for the Rangers to kick these tires after trading several of their best youngsters to Arizona for Upton, and the end result wouldn't be very encouraging even if things came together. They'd have a talented player who might produce star-level numbers to go along with a lesser pitcher acquired with lesser players.

They know what they'll be getting if they re-up with Hamilton, and they'd have the players to go acquire a pitcher with maybe just as much ability as Greinke on the mound.

Not exactly how the Rangers drew it up, but this is the best they can do now.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. Salary and payroll information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

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