Monday, December 13, 2010
Yanks not increasing Cliff Lee offer
By Wallace Matthews
NEW YORK -- The Yankees say the offer they have made to Cliff Lee is their final offer, and the only thing left for them to do is wait for him to decide if he wants to take it.
"We are not ratcheting up our offer," general manager Brian Cashman said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon while waiting to hear something, anything, from Darek Braunecker, the only agent this winter selling a pitcher the Yankees are interested in buying.
"We are exactly where we were last week," Cashman said, although he refused to confirm details of the Yankees' offer, believed to be for a guaranteed seven years and somewhere between $140 million and $160 million.
On Sunday, Cashman had texted that the Yankees were "not desperate" to sign Lee, the 2008 Cy Young Award winner for the Cleveland Indians who has been traded to Philadelphia, Seattle and, most recently, Arlington over the past two seasons.
Currently, the Rangers are the only other known serious bidder, although over the weekend reports surfaced that the Boston Red Sox had made an overture, primarily to drive up the Yankees' price the way they did earlier for Mariano Rivera and the way they believed the Yankees had in Boston's pursuit of Carl Crawford last week.
Also, the rumor has been floated, by Braunecker, that a ''mystery team" has also made an offer to Lee. Cashman professed ignorance of any other offers and said he believes the Yankees' offer to be the best one on the table for Lee.
Baseball sources say that "mystery team" is the Philadelphia Phillies, who had been lurking on the periphery. They jumped into the process with fervor after the winter meetings in Florida last week.
"But believe it or not, sometimes it's not just about money," he said.
Cashman said the Lee negotiations reminded him of the Yankees' pursuit of CC Sabathia before the 2009 season. That, too, appeared to be dead in the water when it seemed as if Sabathia was having serious doubts about pitching in New York. Eventually, however, Sabathia accepted a seven-year deal worth $161 million.
"That one's worked out pretty good, I think," Cashman said.
Another source with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed the Yankees' belief that Lee is weighing a lifestyle choice along with the hefty paycheck he is sure to get from either team.
"This is about where he's going to spend the rest of his career," said the source, who requested anonymity because he does not have authority to speak about the talks on the record. "It's a big decision and it's no surprise that he's taking his time about it."
Still, Cashman said, "I would think today's gotta be the day."
The GM has been spending the past few days since returning from the winter meetings in various modes of communication with Braunecker, although he said he had not had any contact with the Lee camp by midday Monday.
"I really have no feel for how this is going to go," he said.
He said he was neither concerned nor anxious nor pessimistic about the Yankees' chances of landing Lee, who would immediately shore up a pitching rotation that is suspect once you get beyond Sabathia.
He was, however, angered by media speculation that the Yankees had somehow been knocked back on their heels this offseason, first by the long and contentious Derek Jeter negotiations, then by the Red Sox's signing of Crawford and acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez, and now by the apparent stalling of the talks with Lee.
"I don't like this perception that we're confused or disoriented or we don't know what we're doing," Cashman said. "We have contingency plans in the event they decide to go another way."
Cashman declined to divulge what other starting pitchers the Yankees were considering as fallback options, preferring instead to praise the pitchers he's already got.
"I really don't think we've got a lot of holes," he said. "We've got one of the best in the league in CC. We've got a kid who won 18 games for us last year in Phil Hughes. And I really believe that A.J. Burnett is going to bounce back for us next year."
Cashman said he still had no idea whether Andy Pettitte, at home in Texas contemplating retirement, would return in 2011. "We'll get someone," he said. "It's just a matter of what level of someone. I like our chances next year, with or without Cliff Lee."
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.