ARLINGTON -- The Rangers are not blind, deaf or dumb as to what's happening with free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee. They know Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was in Arkansas this week on a recruiting visit, meeting with Lee, his wife, Kristen, and his agent, Darek Braunecker. The Rangers knew from the beginning that the Yankees were going to be heavily involved in Lee. The Rangers are not backing off. They still intend to make every effort to re-sign Lee. They just aren't ready to do it publicly.
"I don't think there's much to say other than there isn't anything that has happened or will happen that has come as a surprise," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Friday morning. Even Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg declined to discuss Lee on Thursday afternoon. After making it clear throughout the playoffs that the Rangers would go hard after Lee, Greenberg referred all questions about baseball to Daniels on Thursday. The only thing Daniels made clear is they are not ignoring Lee. Far from it. The Rangers are engaged in the process. "We've spoken to the agents for all our free agents," Daniels said, declining to give a blow-by-blow account of any negotiations. The Rangers, with their new ownership group and a lucrative new television deal on the horizon, intend to be highly competitive with any free agent they target, whether it's Lee, catcher Victor Martinez or somebody else who fits their needs. But they also know that the Yankees, when it comes to money, are going to be more competitive than anybody. The Rangers know that when Braunecker has all the final offers in hand, the Yankees will have almost certainly submitted the highest bid. The Rangers may do something crazy when it comes to Lee, but they won't do something insane. Lee is an outstanding pitcher; his postseason record is excellent and the Rangers wouldn't have made it to the World Series without him. But he was also 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA last year -- including 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts with the Rangers -- he is 32 and he had a minor back issue last year. All of which means the Rangers will pursue him with vigor, but not with reckless abandon. Their hope is that their final offer will at least be competitive with the Yankees and that Lee will be persuaded by the possibility of pitching close to his home in Arkansas -- in a more economically friendly state and on a team that is built around young players with a chance to be a contender for an extended period of time. Nobody really knows how this will play out. Lee made it clear that he enjoyed playing in Texas, but many rumors are flying around: he is close friends with Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, his wife hates New York, he doesn't want to pitch in the Texas heat and that they have already picked out a house in New Jersey. The only thing Lee has ever said definitively is that he wouldn't mind a no-trade clause in his contract after being dealt three times in the past two years. "You know, although it's the first time I've met him, you've seen enough of his interviews, he's the same guy, pretty easy demeanor," Cashman told New York reporters on Thursday night after returning from Arkansas. "Just seemed like a great guy. Not very excitable, excellent at what he does, knows what he wants to do -- he wants to put his family in the best position possible, wants to be happy, wants to be successful, part of a winner." This does not mean it's going to be between the Rangers and the Yankees. There are other teams interested, and Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made his intentions known on an interview with MLB Network/Sirius XM Radio on Wednesday. "I'd be a fool if I didn't like Cliff Lee or want Cliff Lee on our club," Rizzo told Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy. "He's the prize pitching guy in this year's free-agent market. But again, I'm certainly not going to delude myself to the fact that we have a great chance of landing Cliff Lee. He's going to have enough takers and enough competition for us to pick and choose whatever ballclub he wants to go to. "Suffice it to say that I love Cliff Lee, I'd love to have him on our club. He is a No. 1 starter in the Major Leagues." Other teams that have been mentioned in various reports include the Cubs, Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers and Phillies. "We're going to take it on of kind of a team-by-team, case-by-case basis. I don't expect Cliff to be flying all over the country," Braunecker told The Associated Press earlier this week. "We're really in just the infancy stages of it all. We don't really ever handicap the timing of any of this stuff. We believe that when the right deal presents itself, we'll be prepared to act. And when that might be, that's anybody's guess at this point." It could go down to the Winter Meetings, which are scheduled for Dec. 6-9 at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Rangers expect to be in it to the end. They know what's going on with Lee. They are fully engaged in the process. They are just doing it quietly at this point.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.