Cliff Lee couldn't get years from Texas

Updated: December 15, 2010, 8:58 AM ET
By Richard Durrett | ESPNDallas.com

Texas Rangers managing general partner Chuck Greenberg said Tuesday morning that had his club been willing to accept Cliff Lee's terms, he would be pitching for Texas, but the Rangers weren't comfortable guaranteeing a seventh year.

"There was a lot of back and forth and a point at which they said, 'If you would do 'X', we'll agree to terms,'" Greenberg said. "But those terms went beyond the parameters we were comfortable with, specifically in terms of years. It was beyond the level we could live with, so we would not accept those terms. But it wasn't a matter of Cliff not being willing to stay here."

General manager Jon Daniels said there was constant contact with Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, throughout Monday as he tried to make a final decision. Late Monday, Lee agreed to a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"Reports of where we were, actually, were pretty accurate," Daniels said. "It's hard to say what the right number is. At what point is the risk where you're not willing to do it? We went as far as we could on the terms."

According to a source, the Rangers' highest offer was six years at $138 million, with some of that money deferred and a vesting option for a seventh year at $23 million.

The Yankees presented two offers to Lee -- one for six years at $23 million a year and one for seven years at a little over $21 million a year, sources told ESPNNewYork.com.

Lee ultimately agreed to a five-year, guaranteed $120 million contract with the Phillies, sources told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. The deal includes a $27.5 million option in the sixth year based on performance.

Greenberg said that during the first trip to Little Rock, Ark., just as the free-agent period started, Lee mentioned how much fun he had in Texas and how similar it was to his experience with the Phillies.

"He said that it [Texas and Philadelphia] was the two best times he had in baseball in terms of relationship with fans and camaraderie with players," Greenberg said. "In the back of our minds, thinking that experience was something that was going to be meaningful to him, we realized the Phillies had made a positive impression on him."

Still, the Rangers felt they had a good chance to land Lee. Club president Nolan Ryan took it as a good sign that Lee had taken the entire weekend to think about the options in front of him. Those included some increased offers from the Rangers, which a contingent presented Lee on Thursday night in a quick trip to Little Rock, the club's third such journey in the past six weeks.

"I would say I was surprised Philadelphia came into the picture because up to that point last night, I was under the impression it was between us and the Yankees," Ryan said. "When we didn't hear anything over the weekend, I felt like he was giving a lot of considering in coming to us."

The Rangers, though, weren't willing to go seven years guaranteed for Lee, who would have been 39 by the time that contract expired. Greenberg said this was not a case of a free-agent pitcher avoiding the Rangers because of hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

"In this instance, it was simply a matter of us saying yes," Greenberg said. "But it would have been us saying yes on terms we weren't comfortable with. This wasn't about Cliff not coming to Texas. He was willing to remain a Ranger, but it was on terms we felt went beyond the aggressive parameters we were operating under. Had we been willing to go beyond the parameters we were willing to go, he'd be here. We needed to act aggressively, but responsibly and we did so."

Texas will be compensated with two draft choices next summer since Lee is signing with another team after being offered salary arbitration.

"I'm just excited that the Rangers gave everything they had to try and make it happen," Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "I think one of the factors in his decision was knowing the staff that he would be going to and joining in, and how good and dominant they possibly could be. ... We hate to lose him, but I think we'll be all right."

Now Daniels and his staff turn their attention to the rest of the offseason. He said besides the time spent working on the Lee deal, it didn't impact the club's strategy.

"There's no player that's gone off the board that we would have acquired at the cost necessary to sign him or trade for him," Daniels said. "We didn't miss out on anybody. There were players we liked, but not at the dollars or trade cost they were at."

Daniels still wants to improve his team and said he'll look at all avenues to do that, even on offense. He said he's expecting to speak with Vladimir Guerrero's agent this week as talks continue about bringing the veteran slugger back as the designated hitter in 2011. And he'll check on various trade options. Those likely include Kansas City's Zack Greinke and Tampa Bay's Matt Garza. He knows the asking prices won't be low.

"Teams that have pitching to trade at any point, there's going to be a high price," Daniels said. "That's the nature of the market. We lined up some different things we're going to look into. The price we were willing to pay beforehand is similar to what we'd pay now. We wanted Cliff back, but we're not going to rebound and overpay for something."

Still, Daniels didn't hide his disappointment that Lee isn't fronting the rotation next season when asked if part of him was relieved all those dollars weren't tied up in one player for that long.

"Nobody knows how any player is going to perform two, three, four, five years from now," Daniels said. "It's the human element. You try to forecast as best you can, but you just don't know. We wanted to take that risk because we felt that it was worth the gamble to take. But it is a gamble. We're disappointed today because we don't have the player. Might we look back at some point years from now? We might. But I don't want to pretend we're happy or relieved. That's not the case. We wanted to sign the player."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Richard Durrett joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He writes about colleges, the Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers. Richard spent nine years at The Dallas Morning News covering the Rangers, Stars, colleges, motorsports and high schools.

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