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12/10/10 11:15 AM EST
Texas optimistic Lee offer made impression
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Now, they wait.
Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg, assistant general manager Thad Levine and co-owner Ray Davis were back in Texas on Friday after meeting with free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, his wife, Kristen, and his agent, Darek Braunecker.
Now all they can do is wait to see what Lee decides after a 90-minute meeting with the Rangers' negotiating team on Thursday night in Little Rock, Ark. The Rangers, who presented a complex series of contracts proposals to Braunecker and the Lee family, are not pushing for a decision.
The Rangers are aware that a decision is not going to come quickly. They prefer it that way. The Rangers want Lee and Braunecker to take as much time as possible to go over their proposals. The longer the better as far as the Rangers are concerned.
"They need time to make a decision," Greenberg said Friday morning. "We understand that and look forward to hearing from them. We didn't ask them for a timetable. We presented quite a bit of information. To put a timetable on it would be unfair and unrealistic."
Right now, the most important thing is the Rangers are back in the game. They knew they were on life-support after the Yankees made a seven-year offer to Lee on Wednesday, plus outfielder Carl Crawford signing a seven-year, $142 million contract with the Red Sox. The Rangers knew that Crawford signing with Boston would only make the Yankees more determined to sign Lee. Bombers general manager Brian Cashman has been open in his desire to sign Lee
That's why Texas hustled a negotiating team to Arkansas on Thursday night for another meeting. In doing so, the Rangers believe they have resurrected their chances of re-signing the top free-agent pitcher on the market.
"We had a very productive meeting," Greenberg said. "After everything that happened late Wednesday, especially the Carl Crawford signing, we felt the market dynamics had shifted and we needed to be proactive and aggressive to reach out to Cliff, Kristen and Darek Braunecker.
"We proposed a menu of multiple offers, we restated how important it was to have them a part of the Rangers family and our commitment to winning a world championship. We talked about the lifestyle in Texas and how it worked for them."
Greenberg did not go into the terms of the contract proposals. He said the economics of the proposals were complicated. It is almost certain that the Rangers have proposed at least a six-year deal. Club president Nolan Ryan admitted Wednesday that it would likely take at least a six-year deal for Lee.
The Rangers may not be willing to go to seven years, but they still hope that they have other factors that will sway the decision in their favor, including Arlington's close proximity to the Lee family's home in Little Rock and the fact that Texas does not have a state income tax. The Rangers also know those factors aren't going to mean much if they don't stay financially competitive with the Yankees in what's being offered.
"I think we made a very favorable impression," Greenberg said. "What that amounts to, only they can decide. The competition has been very aggressive, and we wanted to reverse the tide and stay in the game. In doing so, we wanted to stay consistent with the franchise's short-term and long-term goals. We did that, and now we wait."
The annual value of the contract is easily going to soar well beyond $20 million per season. The Yankees' payroll is well over $200 million, while the Rangers finished last season with a payroll of approximately $65 million. That will go up under the new ownership group, but Greenberg insisted that what's being offered to Lee will not impact what the Rangers need to do long-term with a core group of star players that are getting older, more experienced and more expensive.
"Each of our offers are consistent with our overall operating plan and will not impair our ability to achieve our ultimate goal, and that is to get back to the playoffs and win three more games," Greenberg said.
The negotiating team that went to Arkansas was put together out of necessity. Ryan and general manager Jon Daniels had prior commitments that prevented them from going.
Levine, who is almost joined to the hip with Daniels, does the majority of player contracts for the Rangers and was best qualified to explain the vast intricacies of the multiple offers. Greenberg is the Rangers' CEO and Davis is one of the two biggest investors in the new ownership group, adding some financial heavyweight clout to the negotiating team.