Would Cliff Lee’s salary be “off the books” in Texas?

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Buster Olney raises an interesting point in his column today. One I’ve never really heard about or considered: that a team like the Rangers may, in effect, consider Cliff Lee’s salary separate and apart from the rest of the payroll:

I’ve heard of situations where an owner will tell his general manager that he — the owner — will take responsibility for a particular signing. In other words, the owner says, “I’ll pay for this player and in effect, he won’t be part of the budget we give you.”

And Buster notes that the group of Rangers execs who visited Lee in Arkansas yesterday included one of the silent partners, billionaire Ray Davis.

Because there’s no salary cap in baseball, the concept of “off the books” is one of semantics, really, but this is a pretty interesting notion.  If the owners — not just Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan, but the money men too — decide that there is a sufficient value to be gained in terms of ticket sales and cache and all of that in signing Lee, the usual budget numbers we ascribe to a team like Texas may be moot. And the potential payroll-killing effects of signing Lee may be as well.