Cliff Lee’s itch for 7th year too much for Rangers

Cliff Lee’s last pitch to the Texas Rangers was too much.

While the Rangers really wanted to keep the ace who helped them

get to their first World Series, they weren’t willing to guarantee

a seventh year on an already extended contract offer for Lee.

”There was a lot of back and forth. There was a point at which

they said if you will do `X’, we would agree to terms,” Rangers

managing partner Chuck Greenberg said Tuesday. ”Those terms went

beyond the parameters that we were comfortable with, specifically

in years.”

So after having the lefty for half a season, the American League

champions will have to figure out life after Lee, and who can fill

the void at the top of their rotation.

Instead of Texas or the New York Yankees, who were willing to go

to seven years, the 32-year-old Lee is returning to the

Philadelphia Phillies – the team he pitched for in the 2009 World

Series – for a $120 million, five-year deal and to be part of a

star-studded rotation.

”I was under the impression that it was between us and the

Yankees,” Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said.

So was just about everyone else until late Monday.

After finding out the Phillies were also talking to Lee, Texas

refused to go beyond a $136 million, six-year deal with a vesting

option for a seventh year that was among several options they had

already offered the pitcher.

”We went as far as we were comfortable going, probably past

what we were comfortable doing,” general manager Jon Daniels


While retaining Lee was the priority, Daniels said that wasn’t

the only thing he had been working on in the six weeks since the

World Series ended.

”We’re ready to move on,” he said. ”We’ve talked about a

number of different options internally. We’ve had a number of

different discussions with agents and other clubs.”

Daniels wouldn’t get into specifics, but the Rangers could try

to acquire 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from Kansas City or

Matt Garza from Tampa Bay.

Another possible option is moving AL rookie of the year Neftali

Feliz, the hard-throwing righty who set a rookie record with 40

saves, into the rotation with left-hander C.J. Wilson, another

former closer-turned-starter who won 15 games, and Colby Lewis.

Other internal possibilities include Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland

and Michael Kirkman.

”No decision has been made now, other than we’re going to look

at it,” Daniels said, adding that might not particularly mean for

2011. ”We can’t ignore that our best options might be here in


The Rangers could also try to get better by bolstering the

offense led by AL MVP Josh Hamilton, who led the majors with a .359

batting average.

”We have all our financial resources available to us, have all

our prospects available,” Greenberg said. ”While we’re

disappointed we don’t have Cliff, we have a great sense of

anticipation about how we’re going to be able to deploy those

resources to keep getting better, get back where we were and take

the next step.”

Lee helped the Rangers reach the first World Series in their

50-season history. He won the opening and clinching games against

Tampa Bay in the AL division series for Texas’ first-ever

postseason series victory, then beat the Yankees on the road in the

AL championship series.

But he lost both World Series starts against San Francisco,

including the Game 5 clincher for the Giants.

Daniels cautioned that the Rangers don’t intend to ”overpay for

something” moving forward just because they lost Lee.

Texas will be compensated with two draft choices next summer

since Lee is signing with another team after being offered salary


”I’m just excited that the Rangers gave everything they had to

try and make it happen,” Hamilton said. ”I think one of the

factors in his decision was knowing the staff that he would be

going to and joining in, and how good and dominant they possibly

could be. … We hate to lose him, but I think we’ll be all


Greenberg described the Rangers as aggressive but responsible in

their pursuit of Lee. He said the new ownership group didn’t want

to risk putting the franchise ”back in the kind of position it was

in for a number of years” before the new owners finally acquired

the team from Tom Hicks in mid-August.

Deals like the $252 million, 10-year contract Alex Rodriguez

signed in December 2000, though he was gone after the 2003 season,

and the $65 million given pitcher Chan Ho Park for five years

contributed to a series of $100 million annual payrolls for

last-place teams.

The Rangers were in bankruptcy proceedings and the ownership was

still unsettled when Lee was acquired from Seattle in a six-player

deal July 9. Texas already had a 5 1/2-game lead in the AL


Five months later, Lee is going back to Philadelphia to join a

rotation that already has Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole


Lee beat the Yankees twice in the 2009 World Series for the

Phillies before they traded him to the Mariners last December, then

acquired Halladay.

”We have a lot of respect for Cliff, (wife) Kristen and the way

they went about the decision,” Daniels said. ”They went to a

place, they had three good offers, from three competitive clubs and

they went to a place that they were comfortable – and part of

potentially a historic-type rotation.”

And at least Lee is in the National League – though one of the

Rangers’ interleague series next season is May 20-22 in


”He’s at a place he obviously wanted to be at,” Texas second

baseman Ian Kinsler said. ”He sent me a text that said great

playing with you, sorry, see you in the World Series. … That

rotation is going to be pretty stout.”