- Associated Press - Friday, December 3, 2010

ARLINGTON, TEXAS (AP) - Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels is preparing for the winter meetings knowing free agent left-hander Cliff Lee will be a big focus for the AL champions.

What is unclear for Daniels and everyone else is whether Lee, the ace coveted by other teams, will decide next week where he will be playing next season.

“He’s in a pretty unique spot right now. He’s got a tremendous decision to make with a lot of, I don’t know how many, but a number of very quality options of which we think we’re certainly right there near or at the top of the list,” Daniels said Friday. “I’m sure he’s going to take his time and make the right call” for his family.

Daniels hasn’t said whether a formal offer has been made to Lee, acquired by Texas in July from Seattle. But the Rangers certainly want to keep him.

Team president Nolan Ryan and Daniels twice visited Lee in Arkansas during the last month. New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman also went to see Lee in his home state.

The 32-year-old Lee was a combined 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA for Seattle and Texas last season. He was 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight career postseason starts before twice losing to San Francisco in the World Series.

While Daniels didn’t want to get into specifics about the face-to-face meetings, he indicated Lee’s short time with the Rangers seemingly changed the pitcher’s perception of the organization.

“I think, in general, he enjoyed his time here,” Daniels said. “I’m not sure we were on his short list before he came here, but he had a good experience, expressed a like of the community, our players and the organization. Obviously, he was part of something pretty special.”

Asked what the next step for Lee would be, Daniels said he didn’t know. Asked if he expected a decision in Florida next week, the GM responded: “Couldn’t tell you.”

Daniels said there are still discussions with Vladimir Guerrero about returning as the designated hitter next season and that there was a “pretty good chance” that catcher Matt Treanor will be re-signed.

The Rangers earlier this week signed free agent catcher Yorvit Torrealba, who played last season in San Diego, to a $6.25 million, two-year contract and introduced him as their new starter. Treanor and Bengie Molina split time behind the plate at the end of last season.

While there is a big focus on Lee, Daniels said there are other things the Rangers want to get done. But the timing of Lee’s decision could play some factor in that.

“Will we be focused on Cliff? Yes, to some degree, it’s certainly a priority of ours, but we’ll be looking at a variety of ways to improve the club,” he said. “Any player that’s going to command a significant salary, it all fits together, so we’ve got to be mindful of that. At the same time, there’s nothing we’ve wanted to act on that we haven’t been able to do.”

Daniels said the Rangers have been active, having a “lot of different dialogue” with other teams and players.

Things are different from last winter, when the team was for sale and had to trade Kevin Millwood to clear money to sign free agent Rich Harden, who was let go after an injury plagued season. There is more money to spend with a new ownership group in place and bankruptcy settled.

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