Nolan Ryan expects Josh Hamilton to hit the free agent market

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this month that the Rangers had reopened negotiations with hot-hitting outfielder Josh Hamilton on a possible long-term contract extension, but it appears there’s little chance of an agreement coming together during the season.

Rangers president and CEO Nolan Ryan told Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com last night that the team hasn’t negotiated with Hamilton’s representatives since spring training and that they expect him to test the free agent market this offseason.

“We haven’t carried on the negotiations during the season because we don’t feel like it’s fair to Josh,” said Ryan, who pointed out general manager Jon Daniels spoke briefly with Hamilton’s agent during spring training. “And we don’t want to do something that will be a distraction.”

“…We are certainly in hopes that we’ll able to work a deal out with him. But I think [Hamilton and his agent] had the mindset they’ll go through the season and see what happens and see what the market is for Josh Hamilton. It’s hard to make any kind of prediction where that will go. I think it’s probably pretty much where we are.”

Ryan expects something will be decided in late November or early December, which means they’ll have as good a chance to sign him as anyone else. If Hamilton manages to stay on the field and keeps producing at an elite level, his best offer could come elsewhere.

Hamilton, who turns 31 on Monday, is hitting .392/.444/.804 with 18 homers, 45 RBI and a 1.249 OPS across 162 plate appearances this season.