Most of the Rangers' personnel are on back in Dallas after spending the week in Orlando and then part of Thursday in Little Rock, Ark., hoping to lure Cliff Lee to Arlington. Here are a few random notes as I cleaned out my notebook and talked to a few folks in what was a much more quiet lobby of the Dolphin Resort on Thursday:
* The Cliff Lee talks have become very interesting with the Rangers increasing their offers to the free-agent pitcher with a face-to-face meeting in Arkansas on Thursday. You can read more of my thoughts on that here. We'll be keeping track of things here and at ESPN.com, so stay tuned. We could know something this weekend or early next week, is my bet.
* Nelson Cruz's agents were at the Winter Meetings and said they have talked to the Rangers a few times to check in. Obviously, they'd like to hammer out a long-term contract for Cruz that would take him through his arbitration years. But since he's just starting that window, the club could opt to wait until after the 2011 season to really get serious about that. Cruz remains one of the best stories on this team after he went through waivers and wasn't claimed by anyone only to revamp his swing and become a solid hitter in the middle of the lineup. He was also the team's best clutch hitter in 2010 (if you ask me) and an integral part of the clubhouse.
* Several baseball officials noted how slow the relief market got starting about Tuesday of the Winter Meetings. There was contact between agents and teams all day on Monday, but by Tuesday afternoon it had really slowed. The blame: Lee. Many of the teams that could shift to more bullpen help were also considering Lee and didn't want to commit to anything until they knew what the deal was with the free agent pitcher. The Rangers could look at some options there, though they are pleased with their current bullpen setup and it isn't a major priority.
* The Rangers showed some interest in a handful of designated hitter possibilities, including Manny Ramirez, Marcus Thames and Jim Thome. At this point, the preference remains Vladimir Guerrero. The club met with his agent on Tuesday. Guerrero wants a multi-year deal and the Rangers are more comfortable with a one-year deal. So both sides are content right now to let things play out. In the meantime, the Rangers will make sure they've got some other options out there. They'd like a right-handed hitter, but will not rule out a left-handed hitter (Thome is a lefty) in that role. They also wouldn't mind someone who could also play the field, but admitted they've gone back and forth on how important that is. I still think Guerrero ends up here, but we'll see.
* GM Jon Daniels said the club was never really serious about Carl Crawford. "We talked to Crawford’s guys, but we were not expected to sign him," Daniels said. "We didn’t really look at it as a realistic option."
* So far, Daniels said the club hasn't been hampered by the fact that Lee hasn't made a decision yet. "We haven’t had a moment come up where we said, ‘If we go and make this move, we have to back out of Cliff Lee,’" Daniels said. "That moment in time has not come."
* Daniels said Boston's move to acquire Crawford was a good one. "It’s an aggressive move and they are an aggressive team," Daniels said.
The Rangers didn't make any big signings, but they felt like they were able to explore some avenues and continue their offseason plan. Once Lee makes a decision, Daniels and his staff can look at the rest of the starter market (trading for Matt Garza or Zack Greinke perhaps or continuing to check in on some low risk/high reward options like Brandon Webb and Jeff Francis). Just remember: The offseason doesn't end with the Winter Meetings.