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For time being, lefty ace Lee is a Ranger

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Had he still been employed by the Mariners Monday, Cliff Lee would have attracted the largest crowd during the American League players' availability in anticipation of tonight's All-Star Game.

Instead, the new Ranger enjoyed relative tranquility, and he'll do so for the next three months or so. Now traded three times within a calendar year, Lee's next move will be his, as a free agent this offseason.

"It's a little bit of a relief, knowing that, number one, it's a good team and they're in a good position to make the postseason," Lee said. "And to know that this should be the last time that I'm traded. We'll see. Who knows? Really, the Rangers could trade me today if they wanted."

They could, but they won't, and Lee knows that. The Rangers acquired the 31-year-old lefty hoping he can lead them to their first postseason appearance since 1999 - and, beyond that, to the first postseason series victory in the franchise's 50-year history.

Lee became a Ranger only after it appeared certain that he would go from Seattle straight to the Yankees, who are nevertheless viewed as the favorites to sign the ace this winter. The Yankees think the Mariners violated an agreement in principle to send Lee to the Bronx, jumping over to Texas once the Rangers offered first-base prospect Justin Smoak.

Lee admitted to calling an old Indians teammate, the Yankees' CC Sabathia, as the trade talks unfolded Friday.

"I thought he might have some information or know something," Lee said. "They had asked him about me and stuff. We talked about the possibility of being teammates again. Stuff like that. Obviously, that didn't happen.

"Now I'm a Ranger, and that's perfectly fine. It's a great team in a great position, unbelievable offense, and it's going to be a fun run."

Speculation already has begun that the Rangers, if they get their ownership situation resolved by this winter, could make a run at retaining Lee. The Yankees will try to sign him, but they won't overpay for Lee the way they did for Sabathia.

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