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Rangers continue their hunting

Rangers move on after missing on Hunter

Torii Hunter is on his way to California to play for the Angels and the Rangers are mulling their next options for an offseason that is only just beginning to heat up.

Trades, free agency, the Japanese market, the Rangers are studying them all as they put behind them the disappointment of losing out on Hunter and begin formulating their post-Thanksgiving plans.

The Japanese market in particular seems to be percolating. The Cleveland Indians have signed reliever Masa Kobayashi and the Kansas City Royals are closing in on Yasuhiko Yabuta, but there could be much more coming across the Pacific.

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The Rangers are among the teams that have expressed interest in outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, but they also know there is free-agent pitching available, including starters Hiroki Kuroda and Kenshin Kawakami, as well as relievers Masafumi Hirai and Kazuo Fukimori.

"That's definitely a market we're paying close attention to," said Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, who is spending the holiday weekend in New York before returning to work in Arlington on Monday.

The Rangers were expecting a quiet weekend while Hunter looked over offers from a number of teams. Texas offered Hunter a five-year deal worth $75 million with an option for a sixth year, but the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim swooped in and reached an agreement with him on Wednesday night

"It would have been a very good fit for us," Daniels said. "He provides a lot of the elements that we were looking for this offseason: a center fielder, leadership, a quality hitter. He may not be an impact corner bat, but he is still a quality hitter. I would have preferred he not end up in the same division, but at the end of the day he got a pretty sizable offer and ended up going another way."

Center field is still high on the Rangers' list of priorities, but they have mixed feelings about what's still left on the free-agent market. They like Aaron Rowand but aren't willing to go as far with him as they did with Hunter. Agent Scott Boras has been busy extolling the virtues of Gold Glove outfielder Andruw Jones, but Texas is leery of the price versus his drop in offensive production last year.

Mike Cameron could be a more viable option for a shorter contract. He'll start next season with a 25-game suspension because he tested positive for a banned stimulant but that hasn't kept the Rangers from expressing interest.

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"The outfield in general, we would like to find a long-term fit for us," Daniels said. "I'm not sure we will or how that will play out. But we have capable in-house options if we don't find the right fit."

Marlon Byrd and David Murphy are the internal center-field candidates and the Rangers would be satisfied to go with them if they can upgrade on the corners. That's why they're interested in Fukudome, who can play all three positions but would likely be considered for a corner spot with Texas. There are reports though that Fukudome may stay in Japan.

Jose Guillen is the best free-agent corner outfielder and he hit .290 with 23 home runs and 99 RBIs for the Mariners last year. But he also has played with eight teams in the past nine years, and that can raise a red flag.

Trade talks are ongoing. The Rangers are among a number of teams who have talked to the Red Sox about Coco Crisp and they have talked to the Tampa Bay Rays regarding Rocco Baldelli. But his health is a serious question mark. They have asked the Kansas City Royals about David DeJesus but have been told he's not available.

The Angels may move Reggie Willits after adding Hunter. The Rangers like Willits as a leadoff hitter but aren't sure he's a front-line outfielder. The Rangers have minimal interest in Scott Podsednik, who was let go by the White Sox earlier this week, and don't seem him as a center fielder.

The New York Mets, among other teams, have interest in catcher Gerald Laird but don't appear willing to give up one of their top young outfielders, either Carlos Gomez or Felix Martinez. They may talk about some of their young pitching -- either Mike Pelfrey or Philip Humber -- so look for the Mets and the Rangers to have further discussions.

Daniels is exploring every possible angle, including some of the bigger names that are out there. Miguel Cabrera, Johan Santana, Danny Haren and Dontrelle Willis are among the names being floated out there but -- big or small -- the Rangers don't appear close to anything significant. At least right now but one phone call, text message or e-mail can change much going into the Winter Meetings that start Dec. 3 in Nashville.

"Teams are not motivated to do a whole lot trade-wise until the free-agent market figures itself out," Daniels. "Teams are hesitant to give up multiple young players if they can sign a player with a free-agent contract. Until that settles, the trade market will take a little longer."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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