FORT WORTH, Texas -- Rangers president Nolan Ryan showed up at the club's annual holiday luncheon with a hoarse voice and feeling under the weather. It was suggested that the news of Zack Greinke signing with the Dodgers made him ill."That put me over the edge," Ryan said. "It started at [the Winter Meetings in] Nashville and went down from there." The luncheon didn't make him or the Rangers feel any better. Instead general manager Jon Daniels, just after giving reporters a perfunctory briefing, was informed by agent Michael Moye that outfielder Josh Hamilton was signing with the Angels. The news caught the Rangers by surprise. They had been engaged in on-going negotiations with Moye and were operating under the assumption that Hamilton would give them the last chance.
That did not happen, and the Rangers clearly weren't happy."Our full expectation was that the phone call was going to be before he signed, certainly not after and giving us an idea," Daniels said after hearing the news. "Josh had indicated recently, last week, he told us he felt it might be time to move on, but that we were still talking. I'm not going to get into the reason, technically, why. I thought we had additional conversations this week that had moved it along in a positive direction. Apparently not." Hamilton agreed to a five-year, $125 million deal, although the Angels have not yet announced the deal. It brings to an end Hamilton's five-year stay with the Rangers. He was acquired five years ago in a trade from the Reds. "It's business, and everybody has to make their own calls and he has a family to look out for," Daniels said. "I get it. Josh has done a lot for the organization, the organization has done a lot for Josh -- a lot of things that aren't public and things of that nature. I'm a little disappointed in how it was handled, but he had a decision to make and he made it." Hamilton had said publicly he wanted to stay in Texas and the Rangers made it clear they would be willing to make a competitive offer. But, in the end, he decided to sign with their division rivals, joining former teammate C.J. Wilson. "We had talked to them about a concept in Nashville," Daniels said. "It wasn't a final offer, but it was an idea of something we wanted to do. But we also indicated we would do something different and respond. My sense is that they had a deadline and accepted the deal." The news was the latest setback for the Rangers, who have not been able to land their primary targets of the offseason. Greinke was one. He went down to the end trying to choose between the Rangers and Dodgers, and decided to pitch in Los Angeles. The Rangers were also unable to swing a deal with the Rays for pitcher James Shields because they refused to give up infielder Jurickson Profar, and they couldn't get outfielder Justin Upton from the D-backs because they would not trade shortstop Elvis Andrus. But they thought they could bring Hamilton back. "You hope and plan at improving the ballclub," Ryan said. "We're working toward that goal. It hasn't happened the way we hoped, but we still we have a good ballclub and we're still in good position. We're not under any pressure to make moves. If there is a way to improve the ballclub within our budget, we'll do it." Hamilton is the second Arlington icon to depart the Rangers in less than a week. Last Saturday, the Rangers traded infielder Michael Young to the Phillies for reliever Josh Lindblom and Minor League pitcher Lisalverto Bonilla. The Rangers strength right now is still a starting rotation that includes Matt Harrison, Yu Darvish, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando. The fifth starter spot is still open, with left-hander Martin Perez and right-hander Justin Grimm as the leading internal candidates. But Daniels also revealed that the Rangers will consider moving left-handed reliever Robbie Ross to the rotation. He was a starter in the Minor Leagues before making the club as a reliever last spring. "He can do either one," Daniels said. "He wants to start. If he gets that opportunity, he'd be excited about it." Daniels said that may not happen this year if the Rangers can add a fifth starter. Kyle Lohse, Anibal Sanchez and Joe Saunders are among the best available on the free-agent market, and the Rangers still have interest in trading for Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey if he is available. But Daniels also admitted the Rangers could go with what they have right now and wait until after the season starts to see if they can do better. What's available at the July 31 Trade Deadline may be better than their options now. "That's a possibility," Daniels said. "That's something we've considered. We feel like these guys are quality options. In a perfect world, you'd like to give them more time. But things happen. We like our players. We may give them a chance." The offense is still a concern. With Hamilton gone, the Rangers have an outfield of David Murphy in left, Nelson Cruz in right and a potential platoon of Leonys Martin and Craig Gentry in center. The infield starts with Adrian Beltre at third and Andrus at shortstop. The Rangers are planning on Profar being their starting second baseman with Ian Kinsler at first, leaving Mitch Moreland and Mike Olt as a possible platoon at designated hitter. The biggest decision will be if the Rangers are committed to moving Kinsler from second to first. "We talked to him early in the offseason and again more recently," Daniels said. "There are different ways to go depending on how it all falls. But there is a reasonable chance we could ask him to do that." If the Rangers want to upgrade their offense, they could still pursue Nick Swisher. He is a free agent who is a switch-hitter who can DH, play first base or one of the corner outfield spots. They would also like to upgrade their bullpen, and they continue to address their catching situation. There is still plenty of time in an offseason devoid of headlines. The most sobering news is their best all-around player is signing with one of their division rivals. "They were a great team on paper beforehand," Daniels said. "They're a great team on paper now. They're going to be very good." "We talked all along that we want to play some of our own guys. We were hoping to do it alongside Josh. I like the ideas of the young players playing with some of our established guys. We staff a very good nucleus, but it is what it is. He's a big part of the club the last few years and now he's on the other side." At least one person is thrilled with news. Wilson tweeted Thursday, "It's a great day to be an Angels fan."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.