It’s often hard to tell what the question was that led to a given answer in an interview, but this story in today’s Dallas Morning News suggests that the Rangers are targeting Cliff Lee.
I say “suggests” because it’s rare that any GM will say “yeah, we’re interested in such-and-such a guy,” and in fact Jon Daniels does not say in the linked article that he’s going after Cliff Lee. What he does say — prompted, I’m guessing, by a general question — is that he wouldn’t be averse to trading within the division. Of course I’m also guessing that the comment came in a general conversation about wanting to get a starter so, yeah, you can put 2 and 2 together and have it equal Cliff Lee, but it could also just be academic musing on Daniels’ part.
Should the Rangers go after Lee? Seems like gamble to me. Despite what the story says, I don’t think the price of admission for Lee will be lower than that for Roy Oswalt. At least not for the Rangers. Sure, Oswalt is under contract for an extra year, but (a) Lee is cheaper and thus more valuable; and (b) the Mariners value prospects a bit more highly than the Astros have in recent years and would likely make noise — possibly disingenuous noise, but still — about needing a premium to send Lee to a division rival.
The upshot: Texas would probably be paying a much higher price in terms of talent to the Mariners than they would the Astros. And for the deal to really be worth it for Texas, the Rangers would have to think about keeping Lee around after he’s a free agent, which gets you back into the money issues that everyone is saying will hold up an Oswalt deal.
So Texas’ choice is this: better prospects and some serious pressure to spend a lot of money after this season for Lee, or a b-grade prospect or two and the certainty of spending a lot of money for Oswalt right now.
I think it’s a lot closer a call than many think.