The Rangers have reaffirmed their commitment to signing Cliff Lee with a wide-ranging menu of potential contract offers designed to keep the prized left-hander from leaving the fold via free agency.
Chuck Greenberg, the team's chief executive officer, led a three-man delegation to Little Rock, Ark., on Thursday in an attempt to entice Lee to commit to Texas.
Greenberg, assistant general manager Thad Levine and co-chairman Ray Davis were all in on the trip to agent Darek Braunecker's office, and they engaged in a meeting that lasted approximately 90 minutes with Lee and his wife, Kristen. Greenberg came away optimistic about the way things went, but realistic in his appraisal of the lay of the land.
"We had a very positive discussion," said Greenberg. "We reiterated our strong desire for Cliff to remain a key part of the Rangers family. We reaffirmed our commitment to building a championship caliber team, and we also conveyed a menu of possible offers which represented a substantial additional commitment in terms of both years and dollars."
Lee, pursued hotly by several teams including the Yankees and Nationals, will now begin the arduous task of sorting between compelling offers. Greenberg said that the Rangers are prepared to wait on Lee's timetable, and he also said that Lee and Braunecker know how badly Texas wants the southpaw to return.
"In terms of the timeline, that is always in the control of the player," Greenberg said. "Certainly, we would rather this be concluded sooner than later, but this is an enormous decision that Cliff and Kristen have to make on behalf of their family. And particularly here where our ballclub is in their back yard, obviously there is a substantial choice to make in terms of lifestyle. We certainly understand and encourage them to take the time that they need in order to make a decision that they're comfortable with."
Lee, regarded by many analysts as the top player on the open market, has bounced around quite a bit in recent seasons. After winning the 2008 American League Cy Young Award, Lee was traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia in 2009. He was sent to Seattle before the 2010 season, and then to Texas as part of a July trade to bolster the Rangers' playoff hopes.
Texas dealt prized prospect Justin Smoak as part of that trade, pushing all-in in the hunt for an elusive division championship. Lee went just 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts for Texas, but he came up with two wins in the AL Division Series and another one in the AL Championship Series. Lee lost twice in the World Series but owns a 7-2 career record in the postseason.
The 32-year-old, who has a 102-61 career record with a 3.98 ERA, has reportedly been offered a lucrative seven-year contract by multiple teams, and Greenberg wouldn't speak to the specifics of his team's offers. He did say, however, that he considered them to be on "market-competitive terms," and that the Rangers would do as much as they could to retain him.
"It would not be appropriate to share any of the details," said Greenberg of his team's menu of options. "But we certainly have a feel for where the market has gone and we've put together a series of alternatives for them that we believe are highly competitive. I want to emphasize that [our offers] are completely consistent with our operating plan [and] do not in any way tie our hands or limit our ability to field a 25-man roster capable of competing for a World Series championship.
"We very much hope that Cliff chooses to remain a Ranger and plays a key role building on our success of last year. But our goal -- and our will to achieve this goal isn't going to change no matter how this turns out -- is to commit to our fans that we're going to do what we can to compete to win a championship. But we sure prefer that it be with Cliff."
Prior to Thursday, the Rangers had hoped to hear of Lee's decision as quickly as possible. But after watching the Red Sox ink outfielder Carl Crawford to a lucrative seven-year deal on Wednesday night, Greenberg knew that Texas had to reconsider its tack. Now, all of a sudden, the Rangers had to worry about the Yankees going for broke to get Lee.
"You have to adapt to changing circumstances," he said. "When we heard late last night of the Carl Crawford signing, it didn't take too much analysis to figure out what the impact of that might be on our prospective competitors. As soon as we heard of that signing, we immediately realized that it was important that we go to Little Rock and that we do it today."
Now, the Rangers settle in and wait to hear of Lee's decision. Greenberg said that the team dumped quite a bit of information on Lee and company to reflect upon and that he understood that they need some time to consider.
"We felt very good," said Greenberg. "It's a very important decision that they're going to be making as a family, and we wanted to put our best foot forward in a responsible fashion to make the case in terms of competing for championships, lifestyle and economics as compelling as possible. I think we did that to the best of our abilities. I believe that we made an impression on them, and it will be up to them to determine how to weigh the choices between ourselves and other interested clubs."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.