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12/03/10 6:30 PM EST
Vlad seeks two-year deal to return to Rangers
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Free agent Vladimir Guerrero is looking for a two-year deal from the Rangers to return as their designated hitter, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Guerrero has told other clubs that he wants a three-year contract. But he is willing to do a two-year deal to return to Texas, where he enjoyed an All-Star season in 2010. So far, the Rangers have been reluctant to discuss more than a one-year deal, but they continue to have interest in re-signing Guerrero.
Length of contract appears to be more important to Guerrero than the financial terms.
"We're still talking," general manager Jon Daniels said. "One of our primary needs is a designated hitter, and Vlad is certainly on that list."
Guerrero, after signing a one-year deal with the Rangers before last season, hit .300 with 29 home runs and a club-leading 115 RBIs in 2010. He was selected to the American League All-Star team after posting a .364 on-base percentage and a .554 slugging percentage in the first half. But he had a .322 on-base percentage and a .426 slugging percentage after the break.
The discussions will likely continue next week when the annual Winter Meetings open in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Rangers' main goal going into the meetings is to re-sign free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, but the search for a big bat for the middle of the order remains a priority as well.
Free-agent first baseman Paul Konerko lurks in the background as an attractive option if the Rangers don't want to go two years on Guerrero and can't re-sign Lee.
"We can't have our full focus on one player," Daniels said. "There are a number of things we want to accomplish. We're prepared to be active, but there are other factors involved: other teams, what players are looking to do. We will be focused on Cliff, but we'll look at other things as well."
Daniels and club president Nolan Ryan made two trips to Arkansas in November to meet with Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker. The sides have had general discussions about finances, but the Rangers have yet to make a specific offer. That could be coming at the Winter Meetings.
The Yankees are also in pursuit of Lee and general manager Brian Cashman has made at least one visit to Arkansas to meet with him.
"It's no secret we want Cliff, and we will do what we can to get him," Yankees co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner told The Associated Press. "That's the bottom line."
There are other teams involved and Lee will likely be the center of attention at the Winter Meetings.
"He's in a unique spot," Daniels said. "He has a tremendous decision to make with a number of quality options. We're near or at the top of the list, but I don't know what will go into his decision."
If the Rangers don't re-sign Lee, they could get involved in a trade for Royals pitcher Zack Greinke. Or they could take some of the money set aside for Lee and use it in their pursuit of a big bat for the middle of the order. That's where Konerko could figure prominently in the Rangers' plans, especially if they can't reach an agreement with Guerrero.
Adam Dunn is no longer on the market, having signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox. However, Konerko remains available, along with outfielders Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford. The Rangers are deep in outfielders, but Konerko would be a strong fit as a right-handed first baseman/designated hitter.
Lance Berkman has also been mentioned but from a free-agent standpoint, Konerko could easily be the best fit for the Rangers among available free agents if they are unable to re-sign Lee.
"We'd like to have Cliff back but we've got to be prepared for the possibility if it doesn't happen," Daniels said.
Konerko, who turns 35 in March, hit .312 with 39 home runs and 111 RBIs over 149 games for the White Sox in 2010. Konerko, a right-handed hitter, played 125 games at first base and 23 at designated hitter this past season. Mitch Moreland, a left-handed hitter, goes into Spring Training as the Rangers' first baseman, but he can also play the outfield.
The Rangers went into the offseason looking for a starting pitcher, designated hitter and catcher. They seem to be making far more progress with catcher than any other position.
The Rangers have already signed Yorvit Torrealba to be their No. 1 catcher and they are ready for Matt Treanor to return as their backup. There are still details to be worked out, but the Rangers are close to announcing Treanor's return.
"There's a pretty good chance Matt will be back," Daniels said. "He wants to come back. I don't know if it will happen in the next day or two, but we're pretty confident that Matt is coming back."