By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Daniels, who said the Lee talks with Seattle originated way back on June 11, isn't worried about the pitcher's long-term future. And who could blame him? Lee will be a free agent after the season and the New York Yankees are already salivating over him for the 2011 season. Lee has been traded four times in the last 12 months, and the Rangers likely won't even broach a new contract until after the season.
Let's face it: The Rangers may have given up prospects just to rent Lee for three months. He signs with New York in December and it makes the move look silly. Unless, that is, Lee gets Texas into the playoffs and wins games in October.
Back in spring training out in Arizona, team president (and yours truly) predicted the Rangers would win 92 games and a division championship. The way they're playing isn't a surprise. Their lead in the meekly mediocre West—it was nine games as the calendar flipped to August—is downright shocking.
The Rangers have a Manager of the Year candidate in Ron Washington and a loaded offense led by probable Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton. They have an elite closer in Feliz and the best pitching staff in the history of the organization. Despite bankruptcy—any number of folks could own the team coming out of this week's auction, including Ryan-Chuck Greenberg, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban or Houston businessman Jim Crane—they made four trades in July, acquiring veteran help in the form of Lee, catcher Bengie Molina, first baseman Jorge Cantu and second baseman Cristian Guzman.
"You can't deny the emergence of the Texas Rangers as a major force in the American League," said ESPN analyst Peter Gammons last weekend. "They've got a lot of good, young pieces to the puzzle and now they have a pitcher in Cliff Lee who can win big games or even a big series all by himself."
Not bad for a guy who, 2.91 ERA notwithstanding, is only 1-2 in a Rangers' uniform so far.