Rangers try to sell Cliff Lee on 'home'
ARLINGTON, Texas -- New Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg declined to say if next season's payroll might reach as high as the mercury during these triple-digit days but with a wry smile said the franchise is prepared financially to keep the club intact -- including ace pitcher Cliff Lee.
"We feel like we have a pretty good handle on how to keep this team together with Cliff as a part of it," Greenberg said Friday as the new ownership group was introduced after being approved my MLB owners on Thursday. "It's nothing that frightens us. We'd be real happy going into next season with that group at the cost that we project."
Lee (10-5, 2.57 ERA), whom the Rangers acquired before the trade deadline, will become a free agent in the offseason. Greenberg sounded confident that the Rangers will have the resources to make Lee financially happy, even bidding against the free-spending New York Yankees.
"What we think it was worth paying for the franchise is one matter," Greenberg said. "What we think is smart to invest in the franchise going forward is a completely separate matter."
Greenberg reiterated that the extra $30 million his group had to spend to acquire the Rangers during the bankruptcy auction will not affect how high they can take next season's payroll.
The Rangers opened this season with a payroll of $64.8 million. By comparison, the Los Angeles Angels opened the season at $121.1 million. As for keeping Lee, it could take a price tag of $20 million a year and an overall payroll next season of close to $90 million.
Greenberg said right now the bigger sell is the club and the family atmosphere he wants to foster at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, having slashed prices for parking, food and merchandise on Friday.
"Eventually, the terms will matter, but right now the terms are secondary. What matters most now are demonstrating that this is a family and a family that he and his family want to be a part of," Greenberg said. "I can't think of any other period in baseball history where a pitcher of such stature and a professional of that quality has been bounced around as [Lee] has. We want him to feel as though he's found a home ... that we really care about him and his whole family and want to take care of him and he chooses to be a part of a great organization with great people who take care of one another.
"So that's really Part 1. If it's something he wants to be part of we think we have a feel for what the cost of that will be and we're ready to step."
Lee spent the first eight years of his career with the Cleveland Indians before being traded at the 2009 deadline to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies traded him to the Seattle Mariners, who traded him to the Rangers last month.
Jeff Caplan covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter.