The Rangers had a chance to re-sign Cliff Lee, but his demand for more money and years than Texas was willing to offer resulted in his decision to return instead to the Philadelphia Phillies. In a conference call with reporters late this morning, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and CEO Chuck Greenberg said the team ultimately balked at Lee's demands.
"There was a point at which they said, 'If you will do X, we would agree to terms,'" Greenberg said. "But those terms went beyond the parameters that we were comfortable with, specifically in terms of years."
The Rangers only knew about the Phillies' involvement in negotiations with Lee last night, but Greenberg said the signing was only "somewhat surprising" because Lee told him that he enjoyed his time in Philadelphia during his first visit to Arkansas. The 32-year-old hurler cited similar fan and teammate experiences in Texas and Philadelphia.
There was a lot of back and forth between the Rangers and Lee, and it wasn't "a matter of Cliff being unwilling to stay," but Texas didn't want to sacrifice the club's future just to keep him.
"The fact is, if we were willing to go beyond the parameters that we were willing to go, he would be here, but we didn't think that was in the long term best interests of the franchise," Greenberg said. "We needed to act aggressively and responsibly, and we did so."
Daniels said reports of the Rangers offer of a six-year guaranteed contract with an option for a seventh year that could have brought the total deal to $161 million were accurate. While it's an inexact science trying to project how well a player will perform years down the road, Daniels said the team was willing to make an offer "probably past what we were comfortable doing."
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"We wanted to take that risk because we thought it was a smart gamble to take," he said.
Daniels didn't tip his hand regarding his plan to improve the club now that Lee's off the board, but he did say no one was signed or dealt while they waited for Lee that they would have been interested in for the cost involved. In-house candidates like Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz and even Tanner Scheppers could join the rotation in Lee's absence, Daniels said, but he'll continue to evaluate other free agents and trade opportunities, and perhaps the club will instead "beef up the offense."
Team president Nolan Ryan stressed that pitching in Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was not a factor in Lee's decision and said he was surprised to hear Lee was headed back to the Phillies.
"I was under the impression it was between us and the Yankees," he said.