Josh Hamilton will come cheaper now than over the winter

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That was the 2010 American League MVP’s message to the Rangers on Monday.

“Free agency is free agency,” Josh Hamilton told ESPN’s Jim Bowden on SiriusXM radio. “If they sign me now, it’d probably cost less. If they sign me there (free agency), it’d cost more. So we’ll see.

“Obviously, I told the Rangers that they get first shot, and I mean that. I have loyalty to the Rangers. They’ve been good to me and my family, and it’s been a good relationship.”

It was labeled a mutual decision when the Rangers and Hamilton halted contract extension talks following the outfielder’s alcohol relapse last month, but from the sound of things, it was definitely more the Rangers’ call than Hamilton’s.

Hamilton is one of the game’s most talented players, but he’s entering his age-31 season and he’s played 150 games just once in his career. Even if one wants to discount his past substance abuse problems, he’s still a risk because of his injury history. It’s not all that often that players become more durable in their 30s.

It’s unclear exactly what Hamilton is looking for to forgo free agency next winter. He’s making $13.75 million this year as part of a two-year, $24 million contract. The Rangers might be amenable to spending $16 million-$18 million per year on him for the next three or four seasons. Going any longer than that would simply be too risky.