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, 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.

Cliff Lee should stay a Ranger in 2011

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Cliff Lee delivers to the San Francisco Giants in the first inning during Game 5 of Major League Baseball's World Series in Arlington, Texas, November 1, 2010.     REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Following another heartbreaking loss to the Giants in Game 5 of the World Series, Cliff Lee said that he would love to return to the Rangers in 2011.

“I don’t know if I’m going to be a part of it,” Lee admitted. “I’d love to be a part of it, but so many things can happen.”

Lee used a lot of “we” when talking about the Rangers after the game. It appears that Texas has stolen a piece of his heart and he truly enjoys being a part of the Rangers organization.

That said, money talks. This guy has been traded three times and has been a part of four different teams in the past two years and I’m sure he’d love to finally settle down with his family in one spot. The Rangers may be the frontrunners for his services, but they’re going to have come up with a decent offer. They’re not going to outbid the Yankees – nobody does. But they need to at least be in the same ballpark so Lee can feel appreciated. The Giants tuned him up twice, but he’s one of the best pitchers in the game and should be paid as such.

If the Rangers can keep Lee, they immediately become the favorites to win the American League next year. The Yankees showed their age in the postseason and while the Rays are young and powerful, they’re about to lose one of their most productive players in Carl Crawford (who is sure to leave via free agency this winter). Texas has a great offensive core in Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Michael Young and even though he looked horrendous in the World Series, Vladimir Guerrero.

Their pitching staff thanks to C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Tommy Hunter and relievers Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando is solid as well, but it’ll look rather ordinary without Cliff Lee. Nolan Ryan needs to do everything he can to bring Lee back so the Rangers can take another run at things next year.

Break out your checkbook, Rangers.

Phillies began long-term extension talks with Lee

According to Mark J. Miller of Yahoo Sports, the Phillies have begun preliminary talks with ace Cliff Lee about a contract extension.

The Philadelphia Phillies got Cliff Lee this summer and knew he was good, but didn’t know he’d be that good. The guy cruised through the postseason, making behind-the-back catches, stealing a base, seemingly annoying former Phils ace Cole Hamels, and, of course, racking up wins. He went 4-0 in five starts with a 1.56 ERA in the postseason after going 7-4 in 12 starts for Philadelphia in the regular season.

The Phils would love Lee to continue doing that last one for them for a long time to come and the team and Lee’s agent have apparently entered into talks on a possible long-term contract, according to New York Newsday. Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, says that he and the team have had “very preliminary talks” about an extension.

I’ve always been of the mindset that if a club trades multiple prospects for a player that they should lock said player up long-term. After all, if that player was worth giving up part of your future, then he should be worth a long-term investment.

Lee was brilliant for the Phillies last year and there’s no reason to think that he can’t be great again over the course of a full season. Philadelphia is built to win now, so it would make sense that they lock up their ace with an extension.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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