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1st Qtr 13:33 2nd & 4, Opp's 48

Rangers sticking to plan

Hamilton the big

Rangers general manager Jon Daniels has maintained contact with Josh Hamilton’s agent, and said Thursday that the slugger’s free agency process has gone as expected so far.

‘‘I think the interest has been consistent,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘The process that we agreed to really back in the spring, when we tabled negotiations at that point, was that Josh was going to test the market and once he had a sense of that would circle with us, and I think he’s still in that process.’’

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Speaking on a conference call in advance of next week’s winter meetings, Daniels said that it has worked out well for the Rangers since they are still sorting through some options. But along with that upcoming gathering in Nashville, there are more trades and free agent signings being made around the league.

‘‘The market’s starting to move,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘I would think things on both Josh’s end as well as on our end, things we’re looking at, I would expect things will start moving a little bit.’’

Hamilton is a free agent for the first time after hitting a career-high 43 home runs with 128 RBIs in 148 games for Texas. The 2010 AL MVP has hit .304 with 161 homers in his six major league seasons, the last five with the Rangers.

If Hamilton signs with another team, Daniels said that wouldn’t necessarily make outfield a bigger priority the rest of the offseason. He said the Rangers could add another outfielder, but ‘‘that wouldn’t necessarily be our first priority.’’

Daniels reiterated comments he made earlier this offseason that the Rangers aren’t being held up from making other deals because of the uncertainty surrounding Hamilton while the slugger and agent Mike Moye work through free agency.

‘‘If we’re in a spot where we've got another decision that’s more timely that we've got to make, we'll make that call,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘And if we need to push up our side of the timetable with Josh, we can do it at that point. But we’re not in that spot yet.’’

Catching and the bullpen are priority issues for the Rangers. Mike Napoli, who has spent the past two seasons in Texas, is a free agent and met with the Rangers Wednesday.

One team that won’t be spending big in Nashville is the Marlins. One year after going on a shopping spree at the winter meetings, only to have the 2012 team completely flop, Miami will be in the market mostly for bench help.

A blockbuster sell-off trade with Toronto two weeks ago left Miami with a projected payroll of about $43 million, which meets owner Jeffrey Loria’s budget for 2013.

‘‘We'd like to do some more things,’’ president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said Thursday. ‘‘We’re going to explore some things in Nashville. If something makes sense, we'll move ahead. But are we talking about huge free agents? I'm not sure that’s the mode we’re in right now.

‘‘Last year in Dallas was really the exception. Last year was special. It was unique. I've never really been through a winter meetings like that.

‘‘I would assume this year, in contrast, will be much like the other 20-plus I've been a part of.’’

Slugger Giancarlo Stanton was upset by the team shakeup, and there has been speculation he might be the next Miami star to go, although he remains a financial bargain because he’s not yet eligible for arbitration.

‘‘Our plans for him in ‘13 are for him to be our right fielder in the middle of our lineup,’’ Beinfest said.

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