Chuck Greenberg, Rangers Owner, Confident of Keeping Cliff Lee
And while the entire baseball industry expects the Yankees to shovel money at Lee, who is a free agent after the season, Texas owner Chuck Greenberg on Wednesday said his team won't back down on keeping its ace.
"We're not going into it with a peashooter," said Greenberg, whose group completed its purchase of the team on Aug. 12.
CC Sabathia, the current Yankees ace and one-time Lee teammate in Cleveland, has the record average annual contract value for a pitcher at $23 million ($161 million for seven years). Lee goes into free agency with comparable accomplishments and a better postseason track record than Sabathia after the 2008 season.
"We can't control what the Yankees or any other club chooses to offer," Greenberg said. "We know that we're going to have to be aggressive financially. We're prepared to do that. But we've also got things to offer from a lifestyle standpoint.
"That doesn't mean, 'It's a great place to live, so let's have a big discount.' We don't mean that at all. We recognize that Cliff is going to get a very, very lucrative contract. He's going to be that rarified level where you have the luxury to make a lifestyle decision."
Greenberg said the Rangers have not yet had contract discussions with Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker, but have instead focused on building a relationship with Lee, who is on his fourth team in 15 months.
"For a pitcher of his stature to be passed around as routinely as he has been, to my knowledge, is unprecedented in Major League Baseball," Greenberg said. "We want to show Cliff and his family that we operate like a family business, we just have different last names. That this was a place he could really feel at home.
"We want to be, and we are now being perceived as, a franchise that's a great place to play. ... The time will come to talk about money, but that time is not yet."
Lee grew up and lives in Benton, Ark., about a 4 1/2-hour drive from Dallas.
Before the playoffs began, Lee said, "I could see myself being here in the future. But only time will tell on that. I'm not going to corner myself into anything with that. But yeah, I definitely enjoy it here, and it looks like it's going to be a good team for years to come. And that's what I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of a winner, and that's what this team looks like it's going to be for a little while."
The Rangers were in bankruptcy before Greenberg's group completed its purchase, so payroll will go up in 2011 (although Greenberg said a final figure has not been determined). And a new local TV contract, while it does not kick in for a few years, gives the Rangers more money to spend on a long-term deal.
"At the end of the day, Cliff is going to make a lot of money," Greenberg said. "Money is money. Lifestyle is a lot more subjective."
Greenberg said he thinks that winning the World Series would be a big help in keeping Lee in Texas.
"The history of elite players leaving a world-championship team in the face of that club really trying hard to keep him is relatively rare," Greenberg said. "So the better we do, the more the bonds can grow."