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Is six the key number for Cliff Lee?

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Cliff Lee wants a long-term contract. But how long is long-term?

Several baseball officials walking through the lobby said they feel length of the contract, maybe even more than the actual dollars on average per season, will determine where Lee goes.

The Rangers appear willing to talk about five years. But what about six? This week is when we should start seeing some offers for Lee. And which team steps up with that sixth year could have a huge edge in landing the free-agent pitcher.

But does that mean the sixth year has to be guaranteed? We'll see. Maybe there's a way to structure the contract so that sixth year is an option that vests based on innings pitched or other measurables in the fifth year of the deal (much like the club did with Kevin Millwood's contract). Maybe there's a considerable buyout of that sixth year so that Lee gets more guaranteed money that way.

Or maybe one of the teams simply decide to guarantee that sixth year to land the 32-year-old. Stay tuned.