The Rangers are continuing to talk to the Mariners about left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee, sources said Thursday. The club has reached out to a number of teams to check in on the landscape and figure out what it may or may not take to get a deal done to bolster the team at the deadline. Lee is one of those options and he's very impressive -- more than the 8-3 record and 2.34 ERA is the fact that he's struck out 89 and walked just six batters in 103 2/3 innings (yes, six walks).
A few things about Lee talk:
* Seattle could end up debating over several offers, so this could be one of these deals that doesn't get done until the actual deadline day itself (July 31).
* Lee is making $9 million this season. At this point, he's owed half of that salary (with the amount a new team would owe going down every day he remains a Mariner). As we discussed earlier today, Rangers GM Jon Daniels is working as if ownership won't be in place (he'll be ready if it is, though) by the deadline. That doesn't mean the Rangers can't take on some of Lee's remaining salary. They do have wiggle room in the internal budget. It was a big reason the Rangers put Michael Main into the trade with Bengie Molina so that the Giants would pick up all of Molina's salary, leaving the Rangers some financial space at the deadline to make a deal. So don't count Texas out of the Lee sweepstakes because of the ownership issue. Sure, it would help if that was in place. But it doesn't mean they can't still get a deal done. (Daniels is creative. One possibility could be sending Rich Harden to Seattle to offset some salary costs.)
* There's been talk that the Mariners want a big bat and some pitching prospects (among other things, like possibly a catcher). The Rangers have some options. The big question: How many top-level prospects are you willing to include in the deal?
Would Seattle do the deal without the Rangers including RHP Tanner Scheppers or LHP Martin Perez? Maybe. But that only increases the number of other prospects Seattle can get, I would think. If the Mariners want a bat, as it appears they do, it would make sense that either 1B Justin Smoak or Chris Davis would be included. Maybe Mitch Moreland too. Beyond that, other prospects close to (or at) the majors probably on Seattle's list include RHP Alexi Ogando, LHP Derek Holland, RHP Omar Beltre and RHP Blake Beavan.
* The other thing to remember is how willing the Mariners are to take young players that may need a few years in the minors. When Daniels made his big trade with the Braves for Mark Teixeira in 2007, he was willing to be patient to get some higher-level prospects that were deeper in the system (like Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz). If the Mariners are willing, they could go after others like Jurickson Profar and Robbie Erlin, just to name a few.
* BTW, last month we asked Lee about the possibility of playing in Texas and he was very complimentary of the Rangers' lineup.
So what would you be willing to give up for Lee? Do you think the Rangers can make a deal for Lee without trading Scheppers and Perez (and I'm assuming Feliz is off limits, that's why I didn't even put him in the discussion)? What would you do if you were Daniels?