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Rangers, Yankees left to wonder about Cliff Lee, 'What if?'

The Texas Rangers really wanted to keep Cliff Lee after the ace lefthander helped them get to their first World Series.

The Texas Rangers really wanted to keep Cliff Lee after the ace lefthander helped them get to their first World Series.

Just not enough to guarantee a seventh year for the pitcher, so Lee spurned the American League champions for the other team he went to the World Series with - the Phillies.

That seventh season would have pushed the value of the contract beyond $160 million. Lee ultimately signed for 5 years and $120 million with an option for a sixth year. Indications were the Rangers were willing to guarantee a sixth year.

Rangers managing partner Chuck Greenberg said yesterday, a day after the pitcher's surprise decision, that Lee was willing to remain in Texas.

"There was a point at which we were told, 'If you do x, we'll sign,' " Greenberg said. "Though we had been aggressive in pursuing him, that was beyond what we felt comfortable with, particularly in terms of years."

Greenberg said those terms "we felt went beyond the aggressive parameters within which we were already operating."

Rangers team president Nolan Ryan said he was surprised that the Phillies were even in the picture.

"Up until that point [Monday] night, I guess I was under the impression that it was between us and the Yankees," Ryan said. "When we didn't hear anything over the weekend, I felt like that maybe he was giving a lot of consideration to coming to us. I was surprised by the news."

General manager Jon Daniels said he had a bad feeling when he saw Lee's number pop up on his phone Monday night. Had he accepted the offer, the call likely would have come from his agent.

In New York, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said he thinks Lee's desire to play in Philadelphia was the overriding factor. He talked about the "word on the street" was how stunned Lee was when he was traded to Seattle before last season, something Lee readily conceded after the deal.

"I think that New York was not something he didn't want to go to," Cashman told reporters. "If I had to speculate, he's worked hard to put himself in position to be a free agent. Texas, Philadelphia, New York, we all had a lot to offer."

"We were in an environment to compete for him at a very fair, highly competitive level as a fre agent and Philadelpia secured him," he added. "It's as simple as that."

The Yankees were among the teams pursuing Lee near the trade deadline. Instead, the Mariners moved him to Texas.

Cashman was asked whether he regretted not getting Lee in the summer.

"I'm thankful, even more so now that I didn't do that," Cashman said. "The fact that he is going to Philadelphia proves how much he enjoyed Philly. Could Cliff Lee have made a difference for us? He may have . . . I don't secondguess any of that."

As for the Yankees' next move, Cashman said: "I do stress Plan B is patience. It's not like we're in a rush to do anything." *