The Texas Rangers were as surprised as Philadelphia Phillies fans that free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee opted to rejoin the team that he helped reach the 2009 World Series.
“I was under the impression it was between us and the Yankees,” Rangers President Nolan Ryan told reporters today on a conference call. “When we didn’t hear anything over the weekend, I felt like he was giving a lot of consideration in coming to us.”
Lee, who spent the final two months of the 2009 Major League Baseball season in Philadelphia, agreed to a five-year, $120 million contract with the Phillies that includes an option for a sixth season, ESPN said, without revealing where it got the information.
The Rangers’ proposal to the 32-year-old Lee was for six years at $138 million, with some of that money deferred and a vesting option for a seventh year at $23 million, the Dallas Morning News said.
The Yankees presented two offers to Lee -- one for six years at $23 million per season, and one for seven years at a little more than $21 million per season, ESPN reported.
Texas balked at matching New York’s terms, General Partner Chuck Greenberg told reporters.
“It was beyond the level we could live with, so we would not accept those terms,” Greenberg said on the conference call. “He was willing to remain a Ranger, but it was on terms we felt went beyond the aggressive parameters we were operating under.”
Had the Rangers guaranteed seven years to Lee, the 2008 Cy Young Award winner as the best pitcher in the American League, he would have remained in Arlington, Greenberg said.
“It was simply a matter of us saying yes,” he said. “But it would have been us saying yes on terms we weren’t comfortable with.”
First World Series
Lee joined the Rangers from the Seattle Mariners in July. He went 12-9 with a 3.18 earned run average for the entire season as he helped steer Texas to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 and to its only appearance in the World Series.
Lee won his three playoff starts against the Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees before going 0-2 as the San Francisco Giants won the World Series for the first time since 1954.
Bookmakers made the Phillies the favorite to win the 2011 World Series. Philadelphia’s odds narrowed to 9-5 from 6-1, while the Yankees moved to 6-1, the same as the Boston Red Sox, from 5-2, said Jeff Sherman, the assistant general manager at the Las Vegas Hilton’s sports book.
The Phillies, who won the World Series in 2008, will also have All-Star pitchers Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt in their starting rotation.
Lee has spent nine seasons in the major leagues, with the Cleveland Indians, Phillies, Mariners and Rangers. He has a career record of 102-61 with a 3.85 earned run average and is 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 10 postseason starts.
Last season, he led the AL in complete games (7), fewest walks per nine innings (0.76) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (10.28-to-1).