Let's just call this "A Tale Of Two Tweets (At The Winter Meetings)". First up, we've got ESPN's Jim Bowden. Who, for all of the occasionally silly trade predictions, tends to be pretty spot-on when it comes to free agency:
Josh Hamilton realistic FA Market looks like Rangers or Red Sox with Yankees a dark horse...doubtful Hamilton goes to SEA even if best offer— JIM BOWDEN (@JimBowdenESPNxm) December 4, 2012
You can safely ignore the bit about the dark horse Yankees, as they are currently on Mission Get Under The Luxury Tax In 2014, and any short-term deal for Josh Hamilton is going to result in massive amounts of average annual value to contend with. With Robinson Cano's free agency pending, they can't afford Hamilton unless they let Cano walk or give up on this quest, and both of those scenarios are unlikely at this point.
The rest, however, is worth looking at. No one wants to go to Seattle if they are a hitter because it's Safeco. Sure, the fences are being moved in, but that theory hasn't been tested yet, and no one wants their career to go the way of pre-2010 Adrian Beltre on a long-term contract. That leaves Boston and the Texas. The Rangers know Hamilton's strengths and weaknesses, and Hamilton would likely love to return there if all else is equal. Boston can possibly offer a bit more money, though, and with Texas reportedly (and repeatedly) reluctant to go more than three years with him, maybe there's something to that. The Red Sox don't want to go four, either, but if they bump up the money, then things aren't equal anymore.
It depends on who you ask at this stage, though. Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald is not as optimistic it's as simple as Bowden says:
BB source on status of talks between Josh Hamilton & #RedSox: Still a possibility deal could happen but realistically, only a small chance.— Michael Silverman (@MikeSilvermanBB) December 4, 2012
Even if it is down to the Rangers and Red Sox, the chances of Boston reeling him in are small according to Silverman. Granted, Silverman said this a few hours before Bowden, so maybe things have changed, or maybe they just asked different people. The winter meetings are like that a lot, and this is far from the last moment of "Wait, which way is up?" we're going to get this week.
So, where are we? We've learned a bit in the last 24 hours to make those hopeful of acquiring Hamilton happy. Only four or five teams are asking about him. At this stage, none of those clubs has offered more than three years. One of them, the Mariners, is not happening as a destination because, well, it's the Mariners. (See: Napoli, Mike.) Boston and Texas might be the favorites of the remaining three (or four) teams, and the Rangers might be the favorite-est of all, given Hamilton has already been there, and with a support system in place, for this long.
Got it? Good. So do we, at least until someone from Yahoo! reports in a few hours that the team with the best chance of signing Hamilton is actually the Pirates, who are willing to go six years. But at that point, it's on to the Nick Swishers of the world as backup plans.