All Rangers fans want to know if Cliff Lee will sign as a free agent with the Texas Rangers this offseason. According to ESPN, Lee would love to be part of the Rangers next season, but that he isn’t sure if that is what will happen. On the surface, it sounds a lot like what Alex Rodriguez was telling the Seattle Mariners before he bolted for that huge contract offer from the Rangers. Now it seems like Lee might be putting the Rangers in that same position, giving them a chance to extend a contract, but assured that a bigger contract offer is going to come along from the New York Yankees.
One way to look at this situation is that at least Lee gave Rangers fans hope here, instead of ripping their hearts out after an upsetting end to the 2010 World Series. This gives fans a lot of time to prepare for the chance that Lee will sign with one of the East Coast teams in the American League. After playing for four teams in less than two full seasons, Lee probably wants to find stability with his next contract, and his agent is probably looking for it to be one in which Lee can finish out his career. There isn’t an estimate out there to how much Lee might make in the free agent market, especially because he is far and away the best pitcher available.
The price for Cliff Lee is going to be quite high, with the pitcher coming off the final year of his contract that paid him $9 million in 2010. He finished the regular season with a 12-9 record, a 3.18 ERA, and 185 strikeouts in a season he split with Seattle and Texas. In the postseason, Lee had five more starts, posting a 3-2 record with just a 2.78 ERA and 47 strikeouts. He was unhittable up until the World Series, and absolutely shut down both American League playoff teams he faced. Now Lee will become a 32-year-old free agent, and is assured to walk into the 2011 spring training games as an extremely rich man.
As for the Texas Rangers, the core of that roster is just going to get better, especially with the development of Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, and Nelson Cruz. Setting aside the aging Michael Young, this is a team that could still be good for a number of years, and with new ownership, they could be looking at signing some key free agents to fill in the gaps. Texas is definitely a franchise on the rise, and they now have to decide if they want to offer Lee a huge contract that would make him the ace of the staff. They will have to make an initial offer to at least keep the fans happy, but will they actually offer him enough money to convince him Texas is his new home?