Rangers continue pursuit of Lee

Rangers continue pursuit of Lee

ARLINGTON -- The courtship of free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee remains an ongoing process, according to his agent, Darek Braunecker, with no hard deadline on when a deal will get done.

"I think it's fair to say that we are advancing the process," Braunecker said Tuesday afternoon.

Lee declined the Rangers' offer of arbitration before Tuesday's 10:59 p.m. CT deadline, so Texas will receive two Draft picks should the left-hander sign with another team.

The Rangers and the Yankees remain the two most visible teams in pursuit of Lee, but at least a half-dozen other teams have shown interest. The Nationals are the only other team that has so far publicly stated its interest.

The annual Winter Meetings begin on Monday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and that could be the perfect setting for Braunecker to get a deal done with somebody. But he said that might not necessarily be the case.

"We don't really know when a deal will get done," Braunecker said. "We'll be ready to act when we get the right deal with the right team. When that might be is pure speculation."

Rangers president Nolan Ryan, CEO Chuck Greenberg and general manager Jon Daniels met with Lee and Braunecker in Arkansas earlier this month. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made a trip to Little Rock earlier this month as well. Braunecker declined to say if they were at the point where they were reviewing specific offers.

But he did say that Lee does have a sincere interest in returning to the Rangers if the right deal was there. Speculation is the Yankees will likely make the highest offer, but the Rangers are hoping other factors will weigh in their favor including proximity to Lee's home in Arkansas.

"Cliff is on record as saying he enjoyed every aspect of [playing with the Rangers]," Braunecker said. "There is mutual interest. If he had not enjoyed the experience, we wouldn't be engaged in the process. But since we are, it's an indication of how favorable it was."

Lee, the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner, is clearly the No. 1 free-agent pitcher on the market with a steep falloff to the next level. He was 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA in 28 starts and 212 innings for the Rangers and the Mariners. The Rangers acquired him in a six-player trade on July 9 and Lee went 4-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 15 starts for them.

He also beat the Rays twice in the American League Division Series and the Yankees once in the AL Championship Series, allowing the Rangers to advance to the World Series for the first time in club history. He lost both starts to the Giants in the Fall Classic but still has a career record of 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA in 10 postseason starts.

The 2.13 ERA is the third-lowest in postseason history for a pitcher with at least 10 starts. Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson had a 1.06 ERA from 1905-13 and Waite Hoyt had a 1.83 ERA from 1921-31.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.