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Updating the Josh Hamilton Market



    We've kinda reached the point in the season when everything that needs to be said has already been said about two dozen times.

    You know who needs to pitch well, what hitter is in a slump and the other assorted details of a baseball season as well as you know your own kin at this point. Off days are meant for a rest from such discussions, a chance to focus on things beyond the five feet in front of your a face that probably won't come again until after the Rangers' season ends in glory or another disappointment. 

    We have to talk about something, though, so why not talk about Buster Olney of ESPN's latest wonderings (subscription required) about where Josh Hamilton will be plying his trade next year? 

    The landscape for Hamilton's services has changed a bit over the course of the season. The Dodgers and Red Sox probably took themselves out of the running with their mega-swap in August, although the Dodgers probably can't be counted out for good. Olney also puts the Angels, Yankees, Mets, Phillies and Cardinals in the no pile, all of which makes sense. 

    Olney also knocks off the expected smaller market teams, leaving eight teams on Olney's list as real possibilities. He doesn't list a frontrunner or even runners, just notes that the market seems to be trending in the wrong direction for a spirited Hamilton pursuit.

    Some -- the Braves, Giants and Mariners -- seem like real longshots, while others look quite interesting. The most interesting are the Nationals, Cubs, Tigers and Orioles because they speak to the unpredictability of free agency.  

    The Nats could use a center fielder, but they have a very top-heavy payroll at the moment. They've been big on making splashes, though, and a playoff flameout and resulting hysteria about their decision to shut down Stephen Strasburg could lead to a big move to resell the franchise. 

    Theo Epstein has said he won't make the same mistakes with the Cubs that he made with the Red Sox in terms of huge, long contracts for older players. The Cubs are completely off the radar screen, though, and, like Epstein's old team, they have a baseball cathedral to keep filled. 

    With the Orioles winning, there are two possible reactions in Baltimore. One is to stay the course and expect improvement from what's already on hand while addressing bigger needs like starting pitching. The other is that the sundae needs a cherry. With Peter Angelos, one can't be sure which is more likely. 

    That leads us to the Tigers. Detroit doesn't have an obvious need for Hamilton, but they didn't have an obvious need for Prince Fielder either. Mike Ilitch likes to make big moves and the likelihood of one will increase if the Tigers can't do better than they did in the postseason last year.

    All four of these teams, plus the Dodgers and a couple of others, have owners who would pursue Hamilton for various reasons that could blur his red flags. It will take just one of them to break the bank, for whatever reason they choose. Seeing who that will be will be interesting, especially since we doubt it will be a Rangers group that has developed a deep enough organization with deep pockets to weather the departure of any one player.