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The ongoing centerfield hunt

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Tracy Ringolsby has some discussion of the Rangers' offseason hunt for a centerfielder...

Texas would like to land an impact center fielder, but Rowand and Mike Cameron have other opportunities, which could leave the Rangers to take a flier on Coco Crisp.

I'm not sure why Ringolsby mentioned Cameron, instead of Torii Hunter, supposedly the Rangers' top prospect, but Hunter and Aaron Rowand do have quite a few other options available.

Such as the Astros, whom Ringolsby mentions as well:

Houston wants to move Hunter Pence to a corner outfield spot, which opens up center field and is why Astros brass has been chatting with agents for Rowand and Andruw Jones.

The Houston Chronicle also reported this week that the Astros are after Hunter and Rowand.

And the Washington Nationals are pursuing Hunter and Rowand.

And the ChiSox:

The Sun-Times has learned from two sources in the Sox' organization that Williams plans to meet with Minnesota Twins free-agent center fielder Torii Hunter in the next week. Hunter is headed to Arizona to be inducted into the Arizona Fall League Hall of Fame.

While the Sox are not able to discuss years or salary with Hunter at this stage, Williams will be offering Hunter his best sales pitch about how he would fit in and the benefits of joining his division rivals. He took a similar approach with outfielder Jermaine Dye before the 2005 season.

And while Hunter appears to be 1-A atop Williams' wish list -- with Aaron Rowand 1-B -- the feeling might be mutual. Hunter told a person close to the situation this week that he was ''receptive'' to the idea of playing on the South Side.

This is why I think the 5 year, $75 million number being bandied about for Hunter isn't realistic. You have four teams who already have Hunter as their top free agent target, plus some other teams who will get into the mix, and all of those teams are likely willing to meet that asking price. To push ahead of the pack, a team is going to have to go 6 or 7 years, and probably at $16-17 million per year.

Think Rowand will be significantly cheaper? Think again:

With Eric Byrnes recently getting a big contract, Rowand is thought to be looking for six years and $84 million in free agency.

Assuming the Rangers are going to pass on Andruw Jones and Mike Cameron, if they don't want to pay that sort of money for Rowand or Hunter, they can stick with what they have now -- which doesn't look very appealing -- or make a move in the trade market for someone like Crisp or Michael Bourn.

But then, everyone who misses out on the free agent centerfielders is going to want Crisp or Bourn, so the idea that the Rangers could deal Laird for Crisp, or Max Ramirez for Bourn, may not be realistic.

It makes the 2005 draft all the more frustrating. A lot of people are proclaiming Jacoby Ellsbury a future star, which I don't think is the case...his best case comp is probably Kenny Lofton or Brett Butler, with Ellsbury most likely settling into a nice career as a solid above-average (but not All-Star level) centerfielder.

But I'd take that right now. Particularly compared to a college corner outfielder who hasn't really hit that well at any level.