Is Nolan Ryan backing down from a Yankee gunfight?

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We have a good idea of what the Yankees have offered to free agent Cliff Lee — six years and $140 million, at least initially — but what about the Rangers?

Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News spoke with club president Nolan Ryan on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings, and Ryan told him that the Rangers are asking Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, to “tell them what it would take to sign” the ace lefty.

Odd, right?  Most front offices would simply make a solid counter-offer and hope for the best.

It sounds like Ryan is wary of getting into a bidding war with the Yankees, however unavoidable it may be.  That, or the Rangers are so confident in their ability to sign the left-hander that they are offering a proverbial blank check.  We’re thinking it’s the former.

The Yankees seem really serious about wanting Lee.  So much so that they haven’t made significant contact with any other free agent this winter.  When they fall in love with a player, and are given an opportunity to sign that player, it’s not often that it falls flat.

Oh, and you know they’re going to want to steal the spotlight from the Red Sox, who just made Carl Crawford the highest-paid outfielder in major league history.

Eyes are upon you, Texas.

Nolan and his partner Chuck Greenberg won the ownership rights to the Rangers in August after bidding $593 million and besting Mark Cuban.  Can they now go to seven years and $163 million for Lee?  If Crawford can get a seven-year, $142 million pact from Boston, $160-plus million may be the going rate for baseball’s best strike-thrower.

Attempting to complete cycle, Robinson Chirinos thrown out to end game

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With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.

Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.

The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.

Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.