MILWAUKEE -- Rangers president Nolan Ryan, arriving for the General Managers Meetings on Wednesday, made it clear that he still wants to find a way to re-sign free-agent pitcher C.J. Wilson."He's a big part of our team," Ryan said after checking into the Pfister Hotel. "The last two years and the number of innings he's given us and the job he's done, any ballclub would miss that if they lose it. Obviously we have concerns if he goes somewhere else. Then we have to make those innings up. It's just not making innings up, they are also quality innings." Wilson's agent, Bob Garber, met with Rangers assistant general manager Thad Levine on Tuesday night in Milwaukee. But he has met with at least six to nine other teams while at the General Managers Meetings and it's clear that Wilson is proving to be the most attractive pitcher on the market this winter. The Angels, Red Sox and Yankees are the main teams from the American League that have shown serious interest along with the Marlins, Nationals, Phillies and Rockies from National League. Others could still emerge as the offseason progresses. Levine met with Garber to make it clear the Rangers wanted to do what they could to re-sign Wilson. "We had a great meeting with Thad Levine and we'll continue our talks," Garber said Wednesday. "I think Thad was saying he wanted to be a little more aggressive and show [C.J.] that they wanted him back, and they do."
Garber has not begun accepting offers but is in the process of narrowing down Wilson's list of teams. Wilson, who has been in Japan on vacation, could start visiting those teams in the next few weeks in preparation for serious negotiations being conducted at the Winter Meetings from Dec. 5-8 in Dallas.Ryan said he has not been able to speak with Wilson since the end of the season. "I didn't because of all the playoffs and World Series, and the way it ended on the road, it wasn't like we saw people," Ryan said. "Everybody kind of traveled back home -- I traveled that night. Because of the length of the postseason, people scattered. I haven't talked to him and haven't seen him. "We just now started having some conversations with his agent and I think they're going through the process and I think they'll go through the process and establish what the market is and the interest level is. How that equates to us, I'm not sure." Wilson was 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA in 34 starts and 223 1/3 innings for the Rangers in 2011. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting. If he leaves the Rangers, it will leave a hole in their rotation that will still consist of right-handers Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando and left-handers Derek Holland and Matt Harrison. Scott Feldman, a 17-game winner 2009, is the leading candidate for the fifth spot, but the Rangers could also move closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation. "We prepared him for the rotation last year," Ryan said. "He earned the right to be in the rotation and the fact that we didn't have a closer, and it left such a void in our bullpen that we chose to put him back in that closer role. To put him in the rotation again this year, we'll have to fill that closer role and how we fill that, I don't know yet. Do you do it from outside the organization? Do you do it from within the organization? I'm not sure how it will be." The Rangers have Mike Adams and Mark Lowe as possible candidates from inside the organization. With Jonathan Papelbon having signed a four-year, $50 million deal with the Phillies, Ryan Madson, Francisco Cordero and Heath Bell are the top closers on the free-agent market. Other possibilities include David Aardsma, Joe Nathan, Brad Lidge, Jonathan Broxton, Frank Francisco and Francisco Rodriguez. The Rangers, as the offseason has unfolded, have expressed preliminary interest in both free-agent starters and relievers, depending on what happens later in the winter. But right now their priority seems to be getting something done with Wilson.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.