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July 30, 2012

Cliff Lee, Josh Beckett latest starters considered by Rangers

The trade deadline arrives Tuesday afternoon, and the Rangers continue to look for rotation help. With 24 hours to go, Cliff Lee and Josh Beckett were on their radar, though the club isn't anticipating a big splash.

The Rangers hold Lee in high regard, and not just because of what he did for them two years ago. When considering who might become available ahead of the deadline, they liked Lee more than Zack Greinke. The problem is mostly money, potentially $110 million of it over four-plus years if he can make his 2016 option vest.

That's not the only problem. While he continues to be a premium strike-thrower, he's allowing a hit an inning and is yielding a .265 average to opponents. His average with balls put in play jumps to .321, though the Rangers' defense could help lower than number. The most eye-opening stat is a .342 average with runners in scoring position.

Both he and Beckett have dropped off from strong 2011 seasons. Beckett lost to the Rangers last week, allowing four runs in seven innings, to fall to 5-9 with a 4.57 ERA. That's 1.70 runs worse than last season. A big problem has been the first inning, where he has a 10.06 ERA.

Beckett, who has $36 million remaining on his contract though 2014, also comes with the perception that he's a problem in the Boston clubhouse. He was at the center of the in-game beer and fried-chicken scandal late last year as the Red Sox collapsed, and also caused a stir this season by playing golf the day after he was pushed back in the rotation because of a soreness in a lat muscle.

Maybe a trade to Texas would serve as a nice change of scenery for the native Texan. It would also give the Rangers the first two overall picks from the 1999 draft. Beckett was drafted out of Spring High School by Florida after Tampa Bay took Josh Hamilton with the first pick.

What might make Lee and Beckett most attractive is their postseason track records. Each boasts a 7-3 record, with Lee's 2.52 ERA more than a half-run better than Beckett's (3.07).

-- Jeff Wilson

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Texas needs to address their pitching staff asap. Injuries are depleting their bull pen.

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