It’s no secret that the New York Yankees will be throwing big money at Texas Rangers’ ace Cliff Lee in the offseason. Lee, who came to the Rangers via trade from the Mariners earlier this season, has already became a fan favorite in Texas, leading them to their first playoff series win. Lee is now 6-0 in his career in the postseason with a 1.44 ERA.

Lee will have plenty of teams lined up at his doorstep in the upcoming offseason, but it realistically comes down to two teams: the Yankees and Rangers.

“I enjoy it here in Texas,” said Lee. “It’s been a good ride so far, and yeah, I could see myself being here in the future. But only time will tell on that. I’m not going to corner myself into anything with that.”

Lee has every right to leave his options open, and there’s no reason for him to commit to anything before the season is over. He needs to be 100 percent focused on the task at hand, and that is beating the Yankees.

One thing we know for sure is that the Rangers can’t pay Lee near what the Yankees will offer him. The Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball in 2010 at $206,333,389. The Rangers have a 2010 payroll of $55,250,545. However, due to a new ownership group, it is speculated that the Rangers payroll could be as high as $100,000,000 next season. Lee will probably be worth at least $20 million per year.

As you can see, the Yankees have a lot more to work with in luring Lee away from Texas. We’ve seen them do it time and time again, most recently with C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. There’s no telling what kind of ridiculous contract the Yankees will offer Lee, but if one thing is for certain, it is that it will be more than what the Rangers can offer him.

So, it comes down to what Lee truly wants. Is he willing to leave some money on the table to return to Texas, where he has became the main attraction, or does he take the money and play for the best franchise in the history of baseball? It’s definitely a tough choice, and it will ultimately come down to whatever Lee wants and that’s how it should be. He has went from Cleveland to Philadelphia to Seattle to Texas without any say in where he ended up. He deserves to pick his next destination.

If the Rangers want to keep Cliff Lee, they must win this series against the Yankees for two reasons.

First off, for their own sake. It would be a huge slap in the face for the Rangers to lose to the Yankees in their first-ever ALCS and then turn around and lose one of the best pitchers in the game to the Yankees a short time later. The Yankees would quickly become much more hated in Texas than they are now.

Most importantly in the decision process, if Lee sees that this Texas team is already in a place where they can compete with and beat the Yankees, it makes his decision a lot easier. Money matters, but trust me, there are still guys out there who want to win and Lee definitely seems like one of them.

Here’s what Lee had to say about winning in the postseason and staying with the Rangers, “But yeah, I definitely enjoy it here, and it looks like it’s going to be a good team for years to come. And that’s what I want to be a part of. I want to be a part of a winner, and that’s what this team looks like it’s going to be for a little while. Hopefully we do some damage here in the postseason, win the World Series, and that will make things a lot easier for me.”

You can take a lot from that quote. Lee realizes Texas has a lot of young talent and should be a good team moving forward. The Rangers can make things easier on Lee and themselves by winning. That starts with beating the Yankees, the team who will be trying their damnedest to pry Lee away from Texas.

The Rangers would probably still have won their division without Lee this season, but there is no way they win the ALDS. Lee gets credit for about 75 percent of that series. With Lee, they are division favorites and serious contenders for a ring. Without him, they’re simply a slightly above average team with a chance to make the playoffs.

Rangers players and coaches know this better than anyone, and they are playing just as hard to keep Lee as they are to win the World Series. Here they are, at a crossroads. They’ve got six games to beat the Yankees four times and make a huge impression on Cliff Lee’s decision. Lucky for them, they’ll have Cliff Lee himself, who will pitch two of those six games, helping them make that impression.

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