Yankees are in talks with Carl Crawford, but what are their motives?

August 10, 2010: Tampa Bay Rays left fielder Carl Crawford ( ) during game action between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. The Rays defeated the Tigers 8-0.

Buster Onley is reporting that the Yankees are engaged in conversations with free agent outfielder Carl Crawford. But what isn’t clear is what the Bombers’ intentions are.

It’s assumed that the Yankees’ primary target in free agency is Cliff Lee. They need pitching (whether Andy Pettitte decides to retire or not) and Lee is the best arm available on the market.

But if they lose out on Lee, is Crawford their backup plan? If they can’t get the pitching they need and want, will they decide to add to their already stacked lineup in hopes that they can out-slug teams throughout the year and then hope for the best in the postseason?

Or are they just trying to drive up the price for the Red Sox? They know that Boston is smitten with Crawford and if the Sox are willing to pony up, he would make their entire offseason.

The Yankees don’t really need an outfielder. Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are entrenched at two of the starting positions and Brett Gardner is a nice role player at the bottom of the lineup. If you were to rank the Bombers’ offseason needs, outfield would certainly not be at the top of the list. (That said, they could find room for a player of Crawford’s talents.)

But part of Brian Cashman’s job is to drive up the price for their competition. Thus, even if the Yankees aren’t truly serious about giving Crawford an eight-year, gazillion dollar deal, they must ensure that the Red Sox have to pay top dollar for the player they want.

Let the chess game begin.

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