After Red Sox sign Crawford, Yankees feeling the pressure to ink Lee

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee pitching in the 1st inning of game 1 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Wednesday, October 27, 2010. UPI/ Bob Larson Photo via Newscom

The Yankees better land Cliff Lee or else they could be in a world of hurt next season.

Offensively, they’ll continue to be dangerous. Thanks to Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada, they won’t have to worry about scoring runs again next season (although it’s important to note that Jeter is coming off a career-low year and Posada struggled at the dish as well.)

But their offense wasn’t the reason they fell short of reaching the World Series: their pitching was. That’s why they set out this offseason to acquire Lee, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to land him with the Rangers trying desperately to retain him.

After Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford each received seven-year contracts, the Yankees had no choice but to add another year to their offer for Lee. They wanted to stay at six years, but the Rangers have amped things up and are reportedly sending a contingent to Arkansas on Thursday in order to get Lee to re-sign. The Yankees had no choice but to take an at-all-costs approach in signing the 32-year-old ace.

Chances are Texas won’t be able to match New York’s final number, which is good for the Yankees. But Lee enjoyed playing with the Rangers last year and spoke after the World Series as though he was coming back. If Texas can get close to the Yankees’ asking price, then Lee may re-sign with the Rangers in order to stay in familiar surroundings.

That would be devastating for the Yankees, who now are suddenly looking up at the Red Sox in the AL East. Just this past week, Boston traded for slugger Adrian Gonzalez and signed Crawford to a whopping $142 million deal. Instantly the Red Sox have added power, speed and defense to their roster, all while the Yankees have impatiently waited for Lee’s answer. If they can’t sign Lee and they go into next year having to rely on A.J. Burnett being one of their top arms, the Bombers are in trouble.

They may want to add on an eighth year if that’s what Lee wants.

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Yankees already frustrated by slow pace of Lee talks

Texas Rangers' pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning of game one of the World Series in San Francisco on October 27, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Baseball’s winter meetings just started and according to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, the slow pace of the Cliff Lee contract talks is already frustrating the Yankees (more specifically GM Brian Cashman). The Bombers have money to spend and damn it they want it spent already.

Everyone knows that from a monetary standpoint, the Yankees will come up with the best offer. There’s really nothing more for them to do than to sit back and wait so why not do just that? Why not exercise some patience?

Of course, it’s easy for me to say that because it wasn’t my faulty pitching that cost me a chance to go to the World Series last year. The Yankees obviously are feeling the pressure of having to sign Lee and I’m sure that’s where Cashman’s frustrations are coming from. He knows he can’t feasibly go into next season hoping that A.J. Burnett will bounce back after a brutal 2010.

There also may be some concern on Cashman’s part because reportedly there’s a mystery team offering Lee a seventh year. The Yankees and Rangers would prefer to stay at six years, but I’m sure Cashman doesn’t want to see Lee land with another team just because he wasn’t willing to fork over that extra year. This is the Yankees’ top free agent target so you know they’re taking an at-all-costs approach to signing him.

It’s interesting to see the affect that a free agent is having on the Yankees. Usually they just throw a bunch of money at a player and he comes running in on all fours with his tongue hanging out. But now that Lee isn’t doing that, it’s kind of humorous to hear that Cashman is frustrated by it (assuming of course that Rosenthal’s report is accurate).

Could Greinke be an option for Yankees if they can’t land Lee?

Apr. 05, 2010 - Kansas City, MISSOURI, UNITED STATES - epa02105037 Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri USA, 5 April 2010.

The bidding war between the Yankees and Rangers over Cliff Lee is about to begin. According to the New York Post, the Rangers are prepared to make an official five-year offer to Lee, but the Yankees are ready to go as high as $23 million annually to secure the lefty’s services.

But for a moment, let’s assume that Lee wants to return to the Rangers. Let’s assume that the millions of dollars that the Rangers are offering are more than enough to by-pass the trillions of dollars that the Yankees are willing to fork over.

What is the Yankees’ fallback plan?

The postseason proved last year that the Bombers need pitching. Who knows what kind of production they’ll get from A.J. Burnett next year and it appears as though Andy Pettitte is set to retire. CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes aren’t going to cut it by themselves.

So what about Zack Greinke? The Royals seem ready to trade the righty in order to restock their farm system and the 27-year-old won the Cy Young two years ago. Up until recently he wasn’t willing to waive his no-trade clause to play for a big-market team (which includes the Yankees, obviously). He’s had anxiety problems in the past and we’ve seen the Big Apple chew up and spit out pitchers like Javier Vazquez and Jeff Weaver before.

But a source told Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports that Greinke is now open to moving to a big-market club. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to take on New York, but if the Yankees miss out on Lee you can bet they’ll at least pick up the phone and see what it would take to land the right hander. He’s coming off a bad year but he has a 3.82 career ERA and a 1.26 WHIP, not to mention he’s only 27. (Compared to Lee, who is 32.)

The winter meetings get kicked off next week, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Cliff Lee situation plays out. It’ll be even more interesting to see what the Yankees do if Lee decides to return to Texas.

Yankees offer Cliff Lee six-years, $140 million?

Texas Rangers' pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the San Francisco Giants during the eighth inning of game one of the World Series in San Francisco on October 27, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Yankees have offered free agent Cliff Lee a six-year deal worth around $140 million. If C.C. Sabathia’s contract in December of 2008 can be used in comparison, then Brown’s figures sound right.

The Yankees signed Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million contract in ’08. While Sabathia had two more years added onto his contract, he was also four years younger than Lee at the time of the deal. If Lee signs with the Bombers, that would mean the Yankees would be paying their top two pitchers roughly $46 million per year.

Wowzers.

That said, the Rangers are expected to match the Yankees’ offers, at least initially. But it’s hard to imagine that a team that had to be saved by Major League Baseball (financially, that is) would be able to come up with that kind of money for one player. At some point, the Rangers will have to bow out and hope that Lee bypasses more money for the opportunity to return to Texas.

The Nationals are also reportedly interested in Lee and there are sure to be other suitors as well. But as I’ve written for the past couple of months, no team will be able to match what the Yankees offer. Thus, one would think that it’ll be between the Yankees and Rangers in the end. Why would he go anywhere else? He can either cash in a big payday and have an opportunity to win a ring every year, or take less and hope that the Rangers’ run in 2010 was no fluke.

The Yankees’ pursuit of Cliff Lee begins

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee pitches against the Baltimore Orioles in the fifth inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Arlington, Texas July 10, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

And so it begins.

Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors (one of the greatest websites known to man) is reporting that the Yankees are flying into Arkansas on Wednesday to meet with Cliff Lee. After dinner, a movie and some not-so-harmless flirting, the Bombers hope to be doing the horizontal polka with Lee within the month.

According to Rotoworld.com, Lee’s agent told the New York Daily News on Monday that he doesn’t anticipate his client signing quickly. Of course, he said this without seeing how many zeros will be attached to the Yankees’ offer, so things could change quickly.

The Rangers still have a great shot to retain Lee, but as I’ve written several times before: they better pony up. That’s not to say that they have to match the Yankees’ asking price (they won’t, and neither will any other team), but they still have to make it worth Lee’s while to stay. He’s going to have another shot at a World Series title whether he stays with Texas or goes to New York, so money will certainly be a factor.

Of course, the one thing the Yankees don’t have is the quiet lifestyle that Lee enjoys. He’s a great guy from the small town of Benton, Arkansas, so the big city lights of the Big Apple won’t to appeal to him like they would another free agent (or so one would think). Still, the opportunity to win a championship and become a gazillionaire may win out in the end.

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