Rangers optimistic about Cliff Lee chase

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Texas Rangers president Nolan Ryan said Tuesday that he's more encouraged now than he was a week ago about the prospect of his club landing Cliff Lee.

"There doesn't seem to be anybody that's stepped out and seems to be the lead pursuer," Ryan said.

Ryan said no offers have been made to Lee and general managing partner Chuck Greenberg added that the talks are still "preliminary." But that could change at any time. The Rangers met briefly on Tuesday for the second straight day with Darek Braunecker, Lee's agent, and more meetings are expected, possibly as early as Tuesday night.

"Obviously, you would like to see it move quicker mainly when you're trying to pursue somebody and wanting to try to get something done," Ryan said. "But you have to realize it's part of the process."

A baseball source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick the chances of Lee signing a contract before the end of the winter meetings is "doubtful."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is on the verge of making Lee a very lucrative offer. Cashman is just waiting for the green light from the player's agent.

"I'm willing to get serious," said Cashman, who once again was scheduled to talk with Braunecker on Tuesday night.

Meanwhile, the Lee race welcomed a new participant Tuesday, as the Los Angeles Angels reached out to representatives for the pitcher, a source told Crasnick.

The Nationals agreed to a $126 million, seven-year contract with outfielder Jayson Werth last weekend, and there was speculation Tuesday that Washington will offer Lee a seven-year deal.

Speaking with Washington-area reporters, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo downplayed his team's chances of signing Lee.

"I still think we're a real long shot to acquire the player," he said.

FoxSports.com reported Tuesday that the Rangers are listening to offers for third baseman Michael Young, speculating it might be to create more financial space for Lee.

"I wouldn't say that we're shopping him," Ryan said. "A lot of players come up in discussions and you listen to what's out there. I think people ask us about all kinds of players and so you see what level of interest some teams have on various things, but it's all just part of the process."

The Rangers are still in the process of hoping to land Lee, the free-agent pitcher who fronted their rotation down the stretch and into the playoffs, helping them reach the World Series in 2010. Ryan said the club hasn't figured out any kind of opening offer yet.

"If they ask us to present them with something today or tomorrow, we'd put our heads together," Ryan said.

Added Greenberg: "We're ready to do business when the time is right."

Ryan still believes the Yankees could be the highest bidder.

"I have no reason not to think that because of their history," Ryan said. "It's part of the business and part of doing business that you know of their presence. It's like when you have a hitter that's a real threat. You know they're on deck."

Getting a resolution to the Lee sweepstakes would allow the Rangers to act on some other possibilities for the offseason.

"I think that because of the commitment that it would take, it puts you in a position that you have to kind of slow roll everything else and hope that you can get a feel for where you truly are so that if it isn't going to work out, you can pursue other things," Ryan said.

Braunecker said the process is "methodical" and that he has to make sure he gets the right deal for his client. But he doesn't feel it's any slower than other big-name free agents.

"It's very extensive," Braunecker said. "We have to look at all the components. My job is to extract the best possible deal for Cliff and Kristen based on a host of factors. That's money, but also the best place to win and to be happy. That's what they presented to me and my job is to put them in the best situation possible."

Ryan believes the Rangers still have some advantages over other suitors.

"I get the feeling that he liked being in Arlington, liked our guys, liked [manager] Ron [Washington], liked the quality of life issues there," Ryan said. "I think those things are definitely in our favor."

Ryan said he has a certain comfort level with the length of contracts.

"Obviously the shorter, the higher my comfort level would be," said Ryan, chuckling. "You have to take the individual and the track record and all of those things into consideration and work off of that. It doesn't matter if it's a position player or pitcher. I'm not real big into lengthening contracts out because I think from a ballclub and organization standpoint it's bad business.

"I think obviously Cliff Lee would get more consideration for length than somebody else."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Andrew Marchand contributed to this report.