FORT WORTH (AP) – The Texas Rangers really wanted to keep Cliff Lee after the ace left-hander helped them get to their first World Series.
Lee, however, spurned the Rangers late Monday night for the other team he went to the World Series with — the Philadelphia Phillies — and the American League champions are left to look at other options for the top of their rotation.
Lee ended up being only a half-season rental in the Lone Star State after the Rangers got him from Seattle. As much as he enjoyed his time in Texas, he apparently was more comfortable with the Phillies, the team he played for in the 2009 World Series, and joining a star-studded rotation with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
Texas could now turn its attention to trying to acquire 2009 AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke from Kansas City or Matt Garza from Tampa Bay.
Another possible option is moving AL rookie of the year Neftali Feliz, the hard-throwing righty who set a rookie record with 40 saves, into the rotation with left-hander C.J. Wilson, another former closer-turned-starter who won 15 games, and Colby Lewis.
Rangers officials made three trips to Arkansas in hopes of persuading Lee to return to the team closest to his home state. Managing partner Chuck Greenberg and co-chairman Ray Davis, a pipeline billionaire, presented the pitcher a “menu of multiple options” last Thursday.
But the Rangers found out late Monday, exactly six weeks after Lee threw his last pitch in Game 5 of the World Series won by San Francisco, that the pitcher was headed east. And not to the New York Yankees.
One of options from the Rangers reportedly included a guaranteed sixth season. A person familiar with New York’s negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Yankees offered Lee $150 million over seven seasons.
The 32-year-old Lee passed up an extra $50 million and two more years from the Yankees and reached a preliminary agreement on a $100 million, five-year contract with the Phillies on Monday night, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press.
After Lee won twice for Philadelphia against the Yankees in the 2009 World Series, the Phillies traded him to Seattle last December.
Texas acquired Lee in a six-player deal July 9, after it also appeared then that the ace lefty might be headed to the Yankees. The Rangers gave up top prospect first baseman Justin Smoak in the deal.
When the Rangers acquired Lee, despite bankruptcy proceedings and unsettled ownership at the time, their 5 1/2-game lead in the AL West was the largest in any of baseball’s six divisions. They had taken over first place for good June 8, a day after losing to Lee and the Mariners.
Lee was 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 regular-season starts for Texas, which lost five consecutive outings by the lefty in August when he was bothered by a stiff back. He was 12-9 overall for the Mariners and Rangers.
But he finished strong after an injection in his back. He allowed two hits and one run over eight innings against the Yankees after an extended break, then helped the Rangers reach the first World Series in their 50-season history.
Lee won the opener and Game 5 clincher in the AL division series against Tampa Bay, the first postseason series ever won by Texas. He then beat the Yankees in the AL championship series before losing twice in the World Series.
During the playoffs, Rangers president Nolan Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher, said he had “never seen anybody have the command on the mound” that Lee had. He was part of the first two visits to see Lee in Arkansas.
Still, Ryan had expressed his uneasiness of giving any pitcher a contract for six years or more.
Right-handed reliever Mark Lowe, who was injured when he came with Lee from Seattle, agreed last month to a $1.2 million, one-year deal with Texas.
The Rangers did offer salary arbitration last month to Lee, knowing he wouldn’t accept it. Now that he is signing with another team, they will be compensated with two draft choices next summer.
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