Free agent Cliff Lee is planning to make his decision early this week, according to people familiar with negotiations. The Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and a third mystery team are all still thought to be alive as Lee deliberates the biggest player call of the winter.
The conventional wisdom is he will choose between the Yankees and incumbent Rangers. There's been more speculation that Lee could leave significant money on the table, and choose to stay with Texas, and Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg expressed optimism after leading a contingent on Texas' third visit to Lee and his agent Darek Braunecker in Little Rock, Ark., last week. Rangers manager Ron Washington also echoed those sentiments over the weekend, though he wasn't part of the traveling party.
While the exact current offers are still unclear, it is believed the Yankees' seven-year offer is for significantly more money than the Rangers have offered, perhaps in the tens of millions of dollars. However, people around the game believe Lee loved his short time in Texas and may heavily weight the proximity of Arlington, Tex., to Little Rock.
The Yankees were believed to be at $138 million over six years before adding an extra year and several million dollars to their offer late Wednesday, shortly after the Boston Red Sox and Carl Crawford agreed on a seven-year, $142 million contract. The Rangers' enhanced their bid from $100 million over five years, this time offering a six-year deal for an undisclosed amount with an option among a menu of choices on Thursday. The Yankees' latest offer is thought to be substantially higher, though neither exact bid is known.
The mystery team remains a mystery and also seen as a long shot. The Red Sox offered a seven-year deal at one point, but are not believed in the bidding after adding Adrian Gonzalez and Crawford. The Angels have shown interest in Lee, as well, but are extremely unlikely to outbid the Yankees.