Rangers talking to Washington about new contract
AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – While there have been no negotiations yet with free-agent ace Cliff Lee, the American League champion Texas Rangers will talk Thursday with manager Ron Washington about a new contract.
Nolan Ryan, the team’s president and part-owner, said he expects “no issues” in getting new deals done for Washington, whose contract expires this year, and general manager Jon Daniels, who has one year left on his deal.
As for keeping Lee, that won’t be as easy, despite mutual interest on both sides.
“It’s hard for me to speculate on that because I don’t know where this is going to go,” Ryan said Wednesday, two days after the team’s first World Series ended. “You read reports that the Yankees are after him and they are determined to sign him. What that means, I don’t know. … I think it will have a life of its own. It will be on a national level, so it’s just hard to say where that’s going to go.”
Ryan said the Rangers haven’t gotten into any negotiations with Lee yet.
Texas made one contract decision Wednesday, declining a $9 million mutual option on designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero, who will get a $1 million buyout and could still be back next season.
Guerrero, the 2004 AL MVP, signed a deal last winter with a $5.5 million salary for 2010. Daniels said there was never any intention on either side to exercise the option.
“We moved a little bit of money into the buyout,” Daniels said. “He was outstanding for us on and off the field, and the door is certainly open. I imagine we’ll continue that conversation here at some point.”
Guerrero hit .300 with 29 homers and 115 RBIs in 152 regular-season games. The 35-year-old slugger batted .220 (13 for 59) with no homers and six RBIs in 15 postseason games, including 1 for 14 in the World Series loss to San Francisco.
“He was a huge member of our team, played hurt, played hard. He was a great teammate,” Michael Young said. “He was a massive part of our team. Hopefully he’s back next year. We need him, without a doubt.”
Washington said he expects Guerrero to come back.
While the San Francisco Giants had a parade Wednesday, the Rangers held a rally with an estimated crowd of about 10,000 fans outside Rangers Ballpark to mark the most successful season in the franchise’s 50 seasons.
Guerrero and Lee weren’t among the players in attendance.
The disappointment of losing the World Series still lingered in the clubhouse, where most of the lockers had already been cleaned out for the winter.
“It’s not fun, honestly. You get to the World Series, you expect to win. We didn’t. Yeah, it hurts,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said before the rally.
Young had a similar outlook.
“Still stings. Safe to say we’re not over anything yet,” he said. “But we’re getting to the point also, we can appreciate the success we had and the run we had and the fact that we had a great year. We didn’t accomplish the ultimate goal, but we had a great year and I think it’s something we can be proud of.”
The Rangers had never won a postseason series, or even a home playoff game, before this year. This was only the 17th winning record in 39 seasons since moving to Texas after the franchise started as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.
After beating the defending World Series champion New York Yankees in six games in the AL championship series, Texas lost the World Series in five games to the Giants. The final game was a 3-1 loss at home Monday night.
“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win the World Series,” Ryan said. “But when you sit back and look at what we accomplished this year, we feel very good about it. We feel that as an organization we’re headed in the right direction and our goal this winter is try to improve our ballclub any way we can and be ready for next year and hopefully have another season as we had this season.”
Keeping Lee would be a big boost, though most of the core of the team will remain intact regardless of the pitcher’s decision.
Josh Hamilton, a top AL MVP candidate who led the majors with a .359 batting average, slugger Nelson Cruz and reliever-turned-starter C.J. Wilson, a 15-game winner, are eligible for arbitration. But they are under the team’s control for next season.
Young and Kinsler still have multiple years left on their contracts, while shortstop Elvis Andrus, first baseman Mitch Moreland and others are still not even eligible for salary arbitration.
Ryan said he expects an increased payroll, though he wouldn’t speculate how much. But he also pointed out there are not the same restrictions of last winter when the team was for sale.
There was no way the Rangers would have been able to make a deal for Lee last winter. Now they have a chance, both financially and with a winning team.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a pretty competitive marketplace. He’s going to be one of the premier free agents if not the premier free agent on the market,” Daniels said. “He’s earned this opportunity. … I think we did a pretty good job of putting our best foot forward. One of the key aspects any player would want is a place that we believe we can win. We have now demonstrated that, and he has got some relationships in that clubhouse. We’ll see what happens.”