Yankees official says shot of landing Cliff Lee only “50-50”

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We aren’t the only ones searching for clues as to where free agent left-hander Cliff Lee might sign.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney has also been doing a bit of digging and wrote Sunday at ESPN Insider that a Yankees executive has put New York’s chances at only “50-50.”

Perhaps that’s because there are two teams left in the running — the Yanks and Rangers — and simple math would give each club a 1-in-2 shot.  Or maybe this report Saturday from Jack Curry of the YES Network has some legs.  Curry wrote that Yankees officials have expressed a “bit of skepticism” about signing Lee, even after out-doing the Rangers with a seven-year contract offer.

This is all speculation at the moment.  Lee is not expected to make a decision until Monday, or even later in the week, and his agent has remained silent all weekend.

But it’s not unprecedented for a top tier free agent to turn down more guaranteed money from one club to stay in a place where he feels comfortable.  Lee only spent a couple of months this year in Texas, but maybe he really enjoyed himself.  It’s rare, but not unprecedented.

Rangers manager Ron Washington seems like a player’s coach and having Nolan Ryan as a boss would be a surreal experience for any pitcher.

Also, let’s not forget that Lee is from Arkansas — a bordering state of Texas — and still has a home there.

Bryce Harper will participate in the Home Run Derby if he makes the All-Star team

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Bryce Harper has, in recent years, declined participation in the Home Run Derby, with his last go at it coming in 2013, losing to Yoenis Cespedes in the final round. With the All-Star Game taking place at Nationals Park in Washington, however, he has changed his mind, saying today that he will compete if he is selected for the All-Star team.

Harper is currently second in voting among National League outfielders, so he stands a pretty good chance of making it. Even if he falls off in the voting, you have to assume that the powers that be will nudge NL manager A.J. Hinch to select Harper as a reserve, partially because of his actual power — he does have 19 homers so far this year — but mostly for his star power.

Simply put, you know dang well that both Major League Baseball and the Nationals want a home town guy with big time star power in the Derby, even if he’s not having as good a year as he’s capable of. As such, figure to see Harper hitting long balls in D.C. on July 16.