The worst kept secret in baseball since the conclusion of the World Series is the Yankees are not only going to pursue Cliff Lee hard, but also try and knock the Rangers out of the race quickly with an astounding offer.
Two things about this amuse me, the first of which implies the Yankees have not learned their lesson from the trade that brought Lee to the Rangers in the first place.
I’ll let the Yankees and their fans in on a little secret everyone paying attention to the Rangers knows and that is the Rangers are hoping for a quick strike from New York.
When the Yankees made their best offer in a trade for Lee from Seattle in July the Rangers swooped in with a better offer and acquired Lee; a plan they fully intend to use again if the Yankees choose to walk into the trap a second time.
The other part of the worst kept secret in baseball that amuses me is this idea the Yankees can knock the Rangers out of anything.
The new ownership group is made up of not one but two Texas billionaires and flinching isn’t in their vocabulary; something they demonstrated by outbidding Mark Cuban for the team in the first place.
Not to mention a Texas legend is President of the Texas Rangers, a guy you might have heard of named Nolan Ryan.
Ask Robin Ventura if Ryan flinches.
More importantly look how things have gone for the Rangers against the Yankees since July 9th, 2010.
The Rangers beat the Yankees to acquire Cliff Lee.
The Rangers bombed the Yankees in the ALCS.
Anyone really think the Rangers will be intimidated by a team they have beaten both in the front office and on the field in the past four months?
The Rangers will go for the sweep this winter by re-signing Lee and despite the metric ton of hot air coming out of the Northeast, the Rangers actually have a slight edge for two reasons.
First comes the money and unlike their Yankee competition, the Rangers don’t already have a bloated payroll.
Before I get hit by anyone regarding the unlimited budget the Yankees have I would like to remind everyone the Yankees’ opening shot in the Derek Jeter negotiations was to remind both their team captain and the fan base the Yankees are in fact a business.
So much for unlimited budgets.
The Rangers core players are all young and still relatively inexpensive, just look at their payroll ranking this season.
The Rangers also just signed a $3 billion TV deal with Fox Sports making a team payroll north of $100 million not only a virtual certainty, but also legitimately within the team budget.
In other words, the Rangers can afford to give Lee more than Sabathia money, something even the Yankees might shy away from.
The other edge the Rangers have in keeping Lee in Arlington is the family factor, something that cannot be ignored when we’re talking about a contract with this many years on it.
All things considered Lee has enjoyed his time with the Rangers, even going as far to say he’s had the time of his life.
With his offseason home within driving distance of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Lee has been able to see his family more during the season than he ever has; a factor Lee himself has said is important.
The Rangers have also gone to great lengths to make Lee feel like the organization is a family as well and I can promise you Lee will have an unlimited no trade clause.
For a guy that’s been traded three times since the trade deadline of the 2009 season, feeling wanted by a young team he just helped reach the World Series has to carry at least moderate amount of weight.
Winning the American League pennant with a group of players that should not only be back next season but for a few seasons after that will also weigh heavily on Lee’s mind when trying to decide between the young Rangers and the over the hill Yankees.
The Rangers will never be in the Yankees league in terms of team payroll, but they can and should be able to pay one player Yankee dollars and Cliff Lee is one of the few players worth every penny.