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Rangers want Hamels or Greinke, but Cliff Lee would be fascinating backup plan

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

The Rangers, in search of a high-end pitcher to top their rotation, have focused their attention almost entirely on Cole Hamels and Zack Greinke.

What if they don't get either one?

One long-shot option the Rangers would consider, according to sources: A reunion with Cliff Lee.

There are significant obstacles to a trade with the Phillies for Lee, including a contract that guarantees him $25 million each of the next three seasons and also includes a $12.5 million buyout for 2016.

But the Rangers have always liked Lee, and they did have a scout watch him Wednesday in Los Angeles, as reported by CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury. Lee pitched well against the light-hitting Dodgers, allowing one run on two hits in eight innings to lower his ERA to 3.72.

The Rangers have lost the last two World Series, and they believe their best chance of getting back and winning it is to add a true ace atop their rotation. They have focused primarily on Hamels and secondarily on Greinke, but there's no guarantee that they can get either one.

As CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reported Wednesday morning, the Phillies are preparing a contract offer to Hamels that's expected to be for close to $130 million over six years. If they sign Hamels, he obviously isn't going to be traded.

Greinke, meanwhile, is missing a start this week because he "didn't feel right" after starting three consecutive games. Teams interested in him (including the Rangers) will likely want to see how he looks when he returns to the mound Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Even if Greinke is healthy, he may not end up being available. The Brewers have won four of six coming out of the All-Star break, and they have a three-game series this weekend against the first-place Reds. If ultra-competitive owner Mark Attanasio believes that they have a realistic chance to win (they trailed the Reds by 7.5 games going into action Wednesday night), he may tell general manager Doug Melvin to hold onto Greinke and go for it.

The Phillies, meanwhile, won four of their first five games out of the break. They're much further back in the standings than the Brewers (12 games out of first place, entering play Wednesday), but they finally have Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back in the lineup and Roy Halladay back in the rotation.

And, like Attanasio, Phillies president David Montgomery has a reputation as an executive who is hesitant to sell off at midseason.

Of course, if the Phillies think they're enough in the race to keep Hamels, they'd no doubt want to keep Lee as well.

In any case, a Lee deal is something of a long-shot, but a fascinating one. It was the midseason deal for Lee in 2010 that helped get the Rangers to their first World Series.

That winter, the Rangers tried hard to keep Lee from leaving as a free agent. Back then, he chose the Phillies instead.

Could he end up back in Texas now?

 
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