Daniels declined to say if the Rangers have made a formal offer to Lee. But the Rangers have made it clear they have a strong desire to re-sign Lee, and it's obvious that the club will make a formal offer at some point. That could come during the Winter Meetings, which open next week in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Daniels, Ryan and Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg met with Lee and Braunecker earlier this month in Little Rock. Yankees general Brian Cashman has also made at least one trip to Arkansas to visit with Lee.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler said on Wednesday that he and some of his other teammates have been lobbying Lee, trying to convince him to come back.
"I know he wants to come back," Kinsler said. "I know Michael [Young] has talked to him and Elvis [Andrus] has texted him. It's obvious, like Jon Daniels said, he's our No. 1 priority. It's not going to make or break us, but we'd love to have Cliff back. Every team would love to have him.
"I think he's leaning toward Texas. ... I know he wants to come back to Texas, but it's just a matter of the money."
The Rangers and the Yankees are considered the front-runners to sign Lee. There are as many as a half-dozen teams interested, but the Nationals are the only other team that has publicly acknowledged it. Speculation is Lee could command a deal from five to seven years worth in excess of $20 million annually.
Lee has been traded three times and pitched with four teams in the past two years. He was traded by the Indians on July 29, 2009, to the Phillies. He was traded to the Mariners after the '09 campaign and then to the Rangers on July 9. Lee has made it clear that he would like a no-trade clause in his next contract, but that's likely a formality.
Lee officially declined the Rangers' offer of arbitration on Tuesday. That means the club will get two picks in next year's First-Year Player Draft as compensation if he signs with another team.
Lee, 32, who won the 2008 American League Cy Young Award while with the Indians, is considered the top free-agent pitcher on the market. He was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 starts last season, including 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts for the Rangers after being acquired from the Mariners on July 9 in a six-player trade.
He also beat the Rays twice in the AL Division Series and the Yankees once in the AL Championship Series, helping the Rangers get to the World Series for the first time in club history.