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01/16/12 7:33 PM EST
If Texas signs Darvish, adding Fielder unlikely
Rangers fully expect to ink Japanese hurler before deadline
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers expect to sign Japanese pitcher Yu Darvish before Wednesday's 4 p.m. CT deadline.
Club sources said Texas doesn't have a deal done yet, and it could go down to the last day. But sources said the Rangers expect negotiations to get done if everybody stays "fair and reasonable."
If the Rangers get Darvish's deal done as expected, they are not expecting to sign free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. The Rangers met with Fielder and his agent Scott Boras on Friday in Dallas in what was described as a "preliminary meeting."
The Rangers were willing to meet with Fielder because they wanted to have a backup plan in place in case a deal with Darvish did not get done. There is still a remote possibility that negotiations with Darvish fall through. In that case, Texas might turn its attention to Fielder.
But club officials continued to stress that the Rangers don't plan on signing both Darvish and Fielder. The team has made it clear that its focus is on pitching, and it expects to sign Darvish by Wednesday.
Darvish, who was 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA in 28 games for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters in 2011, visited Arlington earlier this month and has already passed his physical.
The Rangers have also inquired about free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt, but that is also considered part of the backup plan if the Rangers don't sign Darvish. The club would like to add one more starting pitcher to the staff but doesn't expect to sign both Darvish and Oswalt.
If the Rangers do sign Darvish, they will likely return their attention to multi-year contract discussions with some of their own players. They have already had conversations with several players over long-term deals. Some, like Mike Napoli and Derek Holland, have not gone anywhere. Others talks, particularly with Ian Kinsler and Colby Lewis, could get re-started once Darvish's situation is resolved.
Then there is Josh Hamilton, who can be a free agent after the upcoming season. The Rangers have had multiple conversations with agent Mike Moye about a long-term contract extension beyond this season.
Right now, those conversations have not progressed toward an agreement -- although the two sides have not shut the door on the possibility. Hamilton is entering the second season of a two-year, $24 million contract, so the Rangers do not have to worry about going to arbitration with him this winter.
Hamilton said this weekend that he would like a long-term contract extension in place by the beginning of Spring Training so he can focus on his job. If not, he is prepared to go into the season as an upcoming free agent.
The Rangers' discussions with Fielder could be viewed as a backup plan if they are unable to reach an agreement with Hamilton. -- but club officials said the meeting with Fielder was more about what they might do if they were unable to sign Darvish. The Rangers wanted to make sure they "didn't miss out on anything."
Darvish's contract could push the Rangers' payroll to over $120 million this coming season. Texas was at approximately $92 million last season and had a $55 million payroll to begin the 2010 season. The team was at $105 million to start the '02 season, the highest in club history.
The Rangers will have a better idea on Tuesday of what their payroll might look like. That is when they are scheduled to exchange arbitration figures with seven players: pitchers Matt Harrison, Mark Lowe and Mike Adams, outfielders David Murphy and Nelson Cruz, shortstop Elvis Andrus and Napoli.
Once arbitration figures are exchanged, the two sides will have roughly three to four weeks to negotiate before arbitration hearings are held in mid-February. The Rangers haven't gone to an arbitration hearing with a player since Lee Stevens in 2000.
Hamilton's father-in-law drops out
Hamilton's father-in-law, Michael Dean Chadwick, has decided not to work with the Rangers. He was hired earlier this month as Hamilton's "accountability partner," but he has decided against accepting the job because of family considerations.
Johnny Narron filled that role for the past four seasons, but he left to take a job as the Brewers' hitting coach. Hamilton and the Rangers have started looking at other options, but nothing is decided yet.