Thursday, December 9, 2010
Updated: December 10, 10:51 PM ET
Rangers up the ante for Cliff Lee
By Richard Durrett
The Texas Rangers stepped up their efforts for Cliff Lee, presenting a variety of increased offers to the free-agent pitcher in a face-to-face meeting Thursday in Little Rock, Ark.
"We reaffirmed our commitment to fielding a championship-caliber team and conveyed a menu of multiple offers, which represented a substantial additional commitment for both years and dollars in an attempt to land his services," Rangers general managing partner and CEO Chuck Greenberg said Thursday night.
He would not say whether the offers were for six years or more, but club president Nolan Ryan indicated Wednesday night that it probably was going to take at least six years to sign Lee and sounded as if the club was seriously considering that kind of commitment.
"We talked about a number of different financial proposals that are consistent with our goals of getting to the World Series," Greenberg said Friday on "The Ben and Skin Show" on ESPN Radio in Dallas.
It's unclear whether six years will be long enough now after reports surfaced Thursday that the Yankees had offered a seven-year deal. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman wouldn't reveal details of New York's offer Thursday.
Reached at his office Friday afternoon, Cashman said nothing had changed since the Yankees presented Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker, with their offer earlier in the week.
"The ball's in their court,'' Cashman said. "I have had no response to the offer we made other than, 'We'll get back to you.' We're in the same spot we were in yesterday.''
Greenberg said no timetable was discussed, and that Lee and his family have plenty to think about.
"This is an enormous decision Cliff and [wife] Kristen have to make in terms of their family," Greenberg said. "There's a substantial choice to make in terms of lifestyle. We want them to take their time. We did not press them on that."
Greenberg, assistant general manager Thad Levine and co-chairman of the board Ray Davis met with Lee, his wife and Braunecker for about 90 minutes at Braunecker's Little Rock office. The inclusion of Davis is significant in that he is one of the biggest investors in Rangers Baseball Express, the ownership group headed by Ryan and Greenberg.
Ryan did not make this latest trip to Little Rock after going on the previous two excursions.
"Neither Thad nor Ray had been to the meetings," Greenberg said. "That was another indication of how cohesive our organization is and how committed we are as a group."
Greenberg said Friday that there was nothing to read into Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels not going.
"We are not changing the dynamic of how this organization makes decisions ... this is entirely a collaboration," he said.
Greenberg said the Carl Crawford signing by Boston late Wednesday night was the reason the club believed it needed to see Lee in person for a third time during this free-agent process and make its case.
It also forced the club to alter tactics. When Braunecker left Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday, the Rangers asked him to talk with Lee and see what it would take for the lefty to come back to Arlington.
Earlier Thursday, Braunecker expressed disappointment with that strategy.
"We have no interest in participating in the unconventional negotiating style the club has requested," Braunecker told ESPN.com. "For the player to submit an offer to the club ... that's not the way the process works."
By Thursday afternoon, the Rangers had shifted gears and presented Braunecker and Lee with several different offers.
"You have to adapt to changing circumstances," Greenberg said. "When we heard late last night of the Carl Crawford signing, it didn't take too much analysis to figure out what the impact of that might be on our prospective competitors. As soon as we heard of that signing, we realized it was important we go to Little Rock and do it today, so we did so."
Greenberg said tactics change all the time based on circumstances.
"Early in the day, we thought one avenue was the best, and that changed," Greenberg said. "We adapted accordingly."
Ryan had been told of the Yankees' going to seven years on ESPN's "Mike & Mike in the Morning" earlier Thursday.
"We have to be concerned about that because seven years for any contract is really stretching it out," he said. "And I don't know how you predict how anyone is performing six or seven years from now."
Ryan didn't say that seven years exceeded the Rangers' limit, but he did say: "Everything has a ceiling that they have to understand what it is. And it doesn't make economic sense after a certain threshold."
Ryan was asked to gauge his team's chances in light of the development.
"Well, you know, if the reports that are coming out are true, obviously that makes it more challenging for us," he said.
Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press on Friday that he's hopeful Lee will accept their offer.
"Everything is progressing," Steinbrenner said. "We made the offer. It's a very good offer, and we certainly hopes he takes it. It's all up to him and his agent. We'll see what happens."
Lee would be 39 in the contract's final season, but Steinbrenner isn't worried. He cited the example of Andy Pettitte, who at 38 was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA this year while missing two months because of a groin strain, a year after going 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA.
"Looking at how well Andy pitched up until this year and so forth, and he's a lefty, the same kind of pitcher as Andy, I don't really see a problem," Steinbrenner said. "I think Cliff's the kind of guy that can get it done and be effective for a long time. He's a great pitcher."
Greenberg, for his part, believes the Rangers made a compelling argument to Lee to retain his services.
"We got a chance to really state our case on why we think we're the best option from a competitive standpoint, a lifestyle standpoint," Greenberg said Friday, adding that the lack of a state income tax boosts Dallas' offer.
The club has believed ever since the process began that Lee wants to play in Texas.
"He had a great experience here and we have thoroughly enjoyed having him here, and I think he feels very comfortable with the guys and very much appreciated by the entire organization," Greenberg said. "I think he'd be very comfortable calling it home. It's a difficult decision. Our goal was to make the case and try to make it easier for him."
The success of the Rangers has made it possible for the team to go after Lee.
"The community is so poised to continue the love affair with the Rangers that we're able to increase payroll," Greenberg said Friday. But he added: "We're not going to be stupid about it, either."
"While we'll be aggressive in our pursuit of Cliff, we'll do it in a responsible and thoughtful way," he said.
Greenberg said the team's overall goal won't change whether Lee signs. And he made it clear that signing Lee would not handcuff the club from putting together a roster that can compete for championships.
If Lee doesn't sign, "we'll find another way to achieve our goal," Greenberg said.
Lee must now weigh offers from at least the Yankees and Rangers. The Angels also have been mentioned as a possible destination.
"We certainly have a feel for where the market has gone," Greenberg said. "We've put a series of alternatives together for them that we think are highly competitive.
"The ball is in their court. We've given them a considerable amount to reflect upon. We want them to take it in. They need to digest it and decide where they go next."
Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand and The Associated Press was used in this report.