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Josh Hamilton's Walk Year and the Offseason

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Getting to the top of the mountain in baseball is very difficult, so give the Rangers a lot of credit for that even if the haven't been able to pull off the final step at this point.

They are now getting to the point where they are going to learn that it is at least as difficult to stay there. Identifying areas you need to upgrade is easier than figuring out which players, some of whom may be beloved by the fanbase, need to be pushed aside  Building the kind of organization that is in contention every year requires those kinds of decisions.

That leads us to Josh Hamilton. Don't worry, there's not much chance Hamilton is going anywhere this offseason. But his contract is up after the 2012 season and the Rangers will, at the very least, have to start thinking about what they plan to do with Hamilton at that point. Do you ignore the injuries and the style of play that helps create them to make him a long-term foundation of the team or do you decide to move in a different direction? 

The Rangers will have several members of this year's core coming up on new deals in the not too distant future -- Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Mike Napoli, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland -- and they will have to choose which of them are going to be here for the long haul. Hamilton is the first up and a big name, but these kinds of choices will need to be made over and over again.

Should the Rangers be thinking about moving in a different direction, this offseason isn't a bad time to act on the notion. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder are both free agents who would give you the kind of offensive production that Hamilton would take with him to a different team in the 2012 season while also eliminating the rotating door that the team was forced to employ at first base this season.

That might make Michael Young unhappy, but he was probably going to find something to be unhappy about anyway.

Even if the Rangers aren't sure about their Hamilton move, it's not the worst idea to get involved on the bidding for a big-ticket free agent. The franchise could lose two draft picks, especially if they let C.J. Wilson walk and replace them, and they have that shiny new TV money coming their way. The $1.6 billion in money from FOX Sports Southwest doesn't kick in until after the 2014 season, but now might be the time to start spending it.

As Jonah Keri of Grantland points out, the advantage the Rangers will get from that deal won't exist forever. Other teams that don't already have lavish TV deals are likely to make them to stay as close to the Yankees, Rangers and others as possible. By the time the deal kicks in, there could be five other teams with increased revenue streams doing battle with the Rangers and they won't have Pujols or Fielder sitting right in front of them.

It is very easy to say that the Rangers should just keep the core together and eschew any free agent interlopers. It might even be the best course of action. But minds need to be open to all possibilities because the Rangers are now in a position to have just about anything they want.

And that may just prove tougher than when all they had were needs.

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