Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth will be the cream of this free-agent crop as it relates to everyday players. But when it comes to starting pitching, the list starts and ends with Cliff Lee.
When Lee was traded from Seattle to Texas last season, the Rangers had to give up highly-touted first-base prospect Justin Smoak to get that deal done. It's safe to say they weren't viewing Lee strictly as a rental. Instead, they had every intention of thinking they could re-sign him as a free agent. The fact that Lee lost twice in the World Series is not going to change the way the Rangers view him -- as one of the best starters in the game. Most believe Lee will land with the Yankees, who were on the wrong end of his dominance in the American League Championship Series.
The assumption is that the Yankees will be able to offer Lee significantly more money than the Rangers can. But what most people don't know is that the Rangers recently signed a television deal reportedly worth $3 billion, enabling them to spend more money on players.
If we look at this from the standpoint of where Lee would rather be, keep in mind that he's a country boy from Arkansas. Advantage: Rangers. I'd think he'd be happier playing in Texas, rather than in New York. Advantage: Rangers.
From the standpoint of returning to the postseason, the Yankees are always going to compete in their division. But let's face it: The AL East is the toughest division in all of baseball. Boston is going to be much better next year, health permitting, and Tampa Bay is going to be good again, too, depending on how hard it is hit by free agency. The Yankees aren't getting any younger and aren't assured of a postseason berth.
The Rangers will have a much easier path to the postseason, playing in the AL West -- and they have very talented players entering into the prime of their careers. Advantage: Rangers.
All things considered, my guess -- and that's what it is, a guess -- is that Lee will stay with the Rangers. Lee is the perfect example of the kind of change Nolan Ryan is trying to effect -- that starting pitchers should pitch deep into games. Now, if the Rangers could add Werth or Crawford to an offense that led the AL in batting average last season, they would be my pick to win the World Series coming out of Spring Training.
Mitch Williams is a studio analyst for MLB Network. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.