Could Cliff Lee stay put in the Lone Star state? Or will he head North for greener pastures?

The 2010 postseason was one of the better of recent memory. There was dominant pitching, unsung heroes hitting three-run blasts, and teams that either had never played in October—like the Texas Rangers—or hadn’t sniffed the playoffs in a long time, like the World Champion San Francisco Giants.

I followed the Giants throughout the year, but my fandom turned religious after game 162 of the regular season. Now, while I put a Edgar Renteria jersey on my Christmas list along with  “Fear the Beard” and “Let Timmy Smoke” shirts, I wait for the chips to fall in free-agency.

The baseball season is over, which means the off-season has begun.

There is a tremendous amount of talent at the top of this year’s free-agency class. The list is headed by Cliff Lee, who is coming off a disappointing showing in the World Series. Despite his inability to defeat Tim Lincecum, the 31-year old left hander will command a multi-year contract worth $100 million and many teams will be willing to answer his request.

Who will be after him? The Rangers, New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Washington Nationals, and others with money to spend will be bidding.

Texas, bankrupt earlier this year, had to borrow over $400 million from Major League Baseball. Then a group headed by Chuck Greenberg and Nolan Ryan took over the team from Tom Hicks, and all of the sudden they have the financial flexibility to give Lee whatever they desire. They intend to be aggressive with their asking price, because the know they wouldn’t have been in the World Series without him.

The Cardinals could be a dark horse in the bidding for the superstar. After missing out on the playoffs, they are sure to be aggressive and have the cash to throw at Lee. They have enough to lock him up and slugger Albert Pujols long-term.  

Signing Lee would form a three-headed monster atop their rotation, along with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.  Their immediate insertion into playoff contention would give Pujols great incentive to re-sign. It’s just a matter if they want to put all their investment into two players.

Combined with the contract previously given to outfielder Matt Holliday, three players would be under control for an approximate total of $380 million.

I believe they will ultimately back off, considering handing out such lucrative contracts to both Lee and Pujols could hamstring the team financially over the long-haul.

A team that has, and will continue to, shell out nine-figures is the vaunted Yankees.

With the most money in a huge market and being World Series contenders year in and out, signing Lee is a reality for the Bronx Bombers. He could sign there tomorrow if he wanted to, but has to be comfortable with huge demands from the bosses and New York City media.  

His wife had a terrible experience with the fans at Yankees Stadium. She bashed them in the media, accusing them of spitting on her and spewing profanities. Not the way to make New York attractive to Lee.

That said, Lee has such a cool, calm, and collected persona, that he would thrive with the Yankees.

But I don’t believe he will end up there.

Many experts do, and I’m sure some MLB executives and General Managers do too.

But he enjoyed being a Ranger. His presence in the clubhouse and on the field was tremendous. He was repeatedly praised by their organization.

The team could give him what he’s worth.

And, which could be the deciding factor, he would only have to pay $2.25 million in taxes in Texas compared to $11 to $15 million in New York.

Taking all of this into account, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him with Texas long-term.

In fact, I would be shocked and disappointed if he wasn’t.

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