It’s 2013.

The instant that a Giants win ended on a Romo throw for the second time of the day, the 2013 baseball season got underway for me.  I didn’t really care who won the World Series until the Giants went up two games – after that all I wanted was a sweep, so that the tournament that the Rangers should have been playing in for more than nine innings could stop.

As of this morning it’s no longer tampering for clubs to approach players entitled to free agency.  Players can formally negotiate only with the clubs they ended the season with until Friday night, but the rules allow contact from other clubs right away, so to the extent that there are teams interested in exploring the possibility of mutual interest with Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, Mike Adams, Ryan Dempster, Roy Oswalt, and Mark Lowe – plus Koji Uehara once he exercises his contractual right to choose free agency over arbitration and Scott Feldman once Texas declines his 2013 option – those communications can get started this morning.

We know that the Rangers and Hamilton aren’t going to roll their sleeves up together this week, as they agreed earlier this year to let Hamilton survey the market before coming back to Texas to discuss a new contract.  By Friday afternoon, the Rangers will tender him a one-year, $13.3 million offer, a formality that won’t lead to anything other than a supplemental first-round pick in June if he ends up signing with another club, but that’s the only news Texas and Hamilton will make this week.  Hamilton will decline that offer within seven days after it’s made, but that doesn’t mean he can’t sign with the Rangers thereafter.

This week’s decision on Napoli will be trickier, as the club might make him the $13.3 million qualifying offer but only if it’s comfortable with the possibility that he’ll accept it.  Going into the season, it was all but a lock that the first-time free agent was going to get a multi-year deal this winter, maybe not in Miguel Montero or Victor Martinez territory but possibly close – Texas reportedly offered him three years and $38 million last winter – but whatever proposals come his way after his disappointing 2012 may prompt him to take one year and $13.3 million, hoping that he bounces back in 2013 and can reenter free agency a year from now, when the class of available players is expected to be unusually weak.

Again, if Texas makes a qualifying offer by Friday, Napoli will have until the following Friday (November 9) to accept it.  The catcher picture could start to materialize here quickly.

The Rangers certainly won’t make qualifying offers to Adams, Uehara, Feldman, or Lowe, and they’re not allowed to do so with Dempster or Oswalt since neither righthander was with the Rangers for all of 2012.  They could still sign any of them, but if they don’t there won’t be any draft pick compensation.

The World Series is over – thank goodness – and the business of putting together a club capable of competing in next year’s gets started right away.

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