LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- We'll have to see exactly what the Yankees' seven-year offer is worth for Cliff Lee, but assuming it's for around the $23 million or so the six-year offer was, it's going to be very difficult for the Rangers to match that. They have been hestitant to even consider six, but club president Nolan Ryan sounded as if the club had accepted that six years is what it would take. But seven? I can't see the Rangers taking that risk, though they are headed to Arkansas to make a pitch.
So what is the fallback position? Well, two solid starters could be available on the trade market. The Rangers have shown interest in Zack Greinke and Matt Garza. Both would help the top part of the rotation. No, they aren't Lee. But Greinke won a Cy Young Award in 2009 and the Rangers saw firsthand how good Garza can be under pressure in Game 3 of the ALDS.
It's going to take strong prospect packages to get either player, but the price for Garza isn't what it would be for Greinke. That probably means losing Tanner Scheppers or Martin Perez. It might mean having to decide whether to part with Jurickson Profar (though I bet they could do a deal with Tampa and not trade him).
BTW, Evan Grant came up with his own proposal to Garza earlier today.
The bottom line: The Rangers still have the prospects to get a big-time pitcher. That may have to be their currency (not unlike last year's trade deadline deal for Lee) if they don't land the big fish in the free agent pond. Signing Lee could allow them to protect most of the farm system, but you acquire assets to use them in a variety of ways. They either play for you at the major league level or they help you obtain players who could be pieces of a championship team.
Because of those prospects, the Rangers have options should Lee go to the Yankees (or elsewhere).