All day yesterday, the attention of Texas Rangers fans was set on a courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas, where the auction of their team was about to take place.

On one hand, you had a group headed by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan and sports attorney Chuck Greenberg going up against a group headed by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Houston businessman Jim Crane.

There were fireworks inside and outside of the courtroom—even a very heated confrontation between attorneys for both sides.

As the hours dragged on, so did the delays and recesses, as both sides tried to jockey for position. It was a chess match, with each trying to figure out what move their opponent would make next.

When the smoke cleared, it was Thursday at one o’clock in the morning, and it was finally over. The bidding had ceased, and it was the Greenberg-Ryan camp that came out victorious. Even in defeat, Mark Cuban was gracious, congratulating both Greenberg and Ryan, saying “Go Rangers” on Twitter early Thursday morning.

With the auction finally coming to a close, the focus of the Rangers’ front office can finally turn back to the team—a team that is currently in first place in the American League’s Western Division.

Not only will the focus now change to where it should have been all along—on a ball club that is headed for a probable run to the World Series—but also to the beginning of internal conversations about whether or not they can bring back two big pieces of their team for the next few years. One is outfielder Vladimir Guerrero, the other, left-handed pitcher Cliff Lee.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels chatted with fans on ESPN Tuesday afternoon and was asked about the aforementioned players as well as the re-signing of outfielder Josh Hamilton.

Daniels said he has notified the agents for both Guerrero and Lee to let them know that they are interested in re-signing their clients. Those conversations, however, will not take place until after the 2010 season is over.

As for Hamilton, who isn’t eligible for free agency until 2012, he was offered a four-year, $24 million extension back in 2009 but turned it down, according to’s Jon Heyman.

Ryan, during his testimony early on, told the court that the Rangers might have a hard time re-signing Hamilton, especially if he won the AL MVP Award. He testified that the contract total could go well over $35 million when the team began negotiations of a contract extension.

While it’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Rangers to bring back both Guerrero and Lee for next season and beyond, most think that Lee will test free agency after the 2010 season is complete. His agent told ESPN’s Buster Olney back in May, “We’re five months away from free agency, so I think that’s the most likely scenario at this point.”

The trade that brought the left-hander to Texas was done right under the nose of the defending World Series champion New York Yankees. Normally, what the Yankees go after, they get.

To be defeated, especially for a guy like Lee, isn’t going to leave the Bronx Bombers with a good taste in their mouths. They want the left-hander in pinstripes; there’s no question about that. When it looked like he was headed to the Yankees a few weeks ago, Lee and his wife actually met with Yankees pitcher and former Cleveland teammate CC Sabathia and his wife to look at where they might end up living.

The Rangers do have one thing in their corner: an ace in their back pocket, and his name is Nolan Ryan. He’s a guy the players respect, not only because he is a Hall of Famer, but also because he’s a former player and knows what the game is like. While he shouldn’t be given complete credit for the turnaround of the former joke of the AL West, he is a big part of the team’s success so far this season.

If you’re a guy like Lee and you know you’re going to be playing for a guy like Ryan, it would make any pitcher think twice about playing anywhere else. Make no mistake—I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to hear that Ryan stayed in touch with Lee after this season comes to a close and made it clear to him just how much they want him back in a Rangers uniform.

I talked to CBS 11’s Melissa Newton via Twitter who told me, “Chuck Greenberg told me last night, ‘we still have money, and we’re still going to go after Cliff Lee.'”

If the Rangers want to get a long-term deal done with the left-hander, they are going to need to include a no-trade clause in his contract—something Lee says he’s going to require. “I’m going to do everything I can to have that in there,” Lee told the media during his introductory press conference with the Rangers. “I want to have some control of my life.”

During that same press conference, Lee was asked about free agency: “I don’t know…there are so many ifs and buts. There’s no telling who is going to be out there trying to sign me. There are so many variables and unknowns to give you a really good answer.”

The Rangers are a better team with both of these guys in the mix. They were good before Lee was traded here to Texas, but they’re that much better with him in the fold, and Nolan Ryan, Jon Daniels, and the rest of the front office have to know that.

All Rangers fans—and players—can do is speculate at this point. No one knows where Lee is going to sign or even what he prefers at this point. All they need to be concerned with is making a push through the playoffs to their first ever trip to the World Series.

After that, Daniels and Ryan will do everything they can to bring both Guerrero and Lee back, and I don’t believe the Rangers will have a single problem with giving Lee the no-trade clause for which he’ll be asking.

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