"Last night I had a feeling something was going on, and obviously when I woke up this morning the media had gotten onto something," Lee said on Friday. "It was all over SportsCenter, and that the Yankees was on the verge of happening. It seemed like that was real close, but that's not what happened."
It was not. Instead the Rangers stepped in and acquired both Lee and reliever Mark Lowe from the Mariners for first baseman Justin Smoak, Minor League pitchers Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke, and infielder Matt Lawson.
Lee, a left-hander who is 8-3 with a 2.34 ERA in 13 starts this season, held a press conference at Safeco Field and then was scheduled to fly to Texas on Friday night. There is a strong possibility that he could pitch for the Rangers on Saturday against the Orioles.
"I'm a Ranger now, and that's it," Lee said. "I think there were other teams involved, too. I don't even know. Who knows what might have happened? There were probably a lot of things that were close to happening.
"Ifs and buts, whatever ... I want to play for whatever team wants me to play for them. Every team I've been on I've enjoyed and developed good relationships with teammates and coaches I'll remember for the rest of my life. I haven't been in a bad experience yet, so I go into everything with an open mind, try to stay positive and look on the bright side of things."
Lee becomes the Rangers' No. 1 starter on a team that went into Friday night's game with a 5 1/2-game lead over the Angels in the American League West. The Rangers acquired Lee to not only take them to their first division title since 1999, but also deep into the playoffs.
This is one of the biggest in-season trades ever made in club history, possibly the biggest since the Rangers acquired outfielder Jose Canseco from the Athletics for outfielder Ruben Sierra and pitchers Bobby Witt and Jeff Russell on Aug. 31, 1992. That one was not made with the idea of getting the Rangers into the World Series that season. This one is.
Lee was 6-3 with a 5.55 ERA in 10 career starts against the Rangers, including a 4-3 record with a 7.62 ERA in seven starts at the Ballpark in Arlington. He was 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in two starts against them this season.
"I know they have a great team," Lee said. "I've had to pitch to them over the years, and especially what they're doing this year, I think they have the biggest lead in all of baseball. That's a good spot to be, kind of like what happened to me last year going to Philly.
"They had a six-game lead or so when I got there, and they got that without me having anything to do with it. I just want to go there and pull my weight and do everything I can to help that team win."
Lee was the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner when he went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA. Last season the Indians traded him to the Phillies on July 29 and he ended up helping them reach the World Series. He was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA in five postseason starts for Philadelphia.
The Phillies traded Lee to the Mariners in the offseason. The Rangers will make it four teams in two years and he is a free agent after this season.
"I think this is going to be the last time I have to do this for a while," Lee said. "Obviously, this offseason I'll be a free agent and there's going to be decisions to make there. For now, this is the last time. It has been a whirlwind year and a half or so. Whatever, it has been a fun ride. Every step of the way has been a good experience and something I think has helped me as a player and person and helped my career.
"My experience in Seattle has been great. Great fans and great teammates, I love the guys. Unbelievable, the weather is just starting to get nice and I'm gone. It's been a good ride. Obviously we would have liked to win more games. I don't think anyone in Spring Training when we got here expected it to turn out the way it has, but it is what it is.
"I am a Texas Ranger now, and I am going to go there and try to help that team win."