2011 MLB Free Agency: Russell Martin Will Join New York Yankees

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Russell Martin Signs With New York Yankees

The New York Yankees have signed a highly sought-after free agent. It just isn't the one they really had built their offseason plans around. Instead, the Yankees today signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Martin, 27, apparently also had offers from the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. So, at least the Yankees can say they beat the Red Sox at something this offseason.

Martin is an interesting gamble. He made the National League All-Star Team in both 2007 and 2008, but his production slipped the past two seasons. This season he fractured a hip and played in just 97 games, hitting only .248 with five home runs and 26 RBI. He had 19 homers and 87 RBI in 2007.

Earlier in the offseason the Yankees had indicated that prized youngster Jesus Montero would get a chance to earn the starting catcher job. That may still be true, and Martin may simply provide insurance. He may end up splitting time with the youngster. Having Martin could also allow the Yankees to use Montero in any potential trade for a top-flight starting pitcher, now that they know they will not be acquiring Cliff Lee.


Cliff Lee Reaction: Disappointment, Resignation, Euphoria

Plenty of reaction from around the Inter-Google this morning on Cliff Lee's decision to spurn the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers in favor of a five-year, $120-million offer from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Here is a smattering of the reaction this morning.

ESPN New York says Lee's decision hurts New York more than losing out on LeBron James.

The Yankees never saw it coming, and if it makes them feel any better, the Texas Rangers never saw it coming, either. The Phillies reacquired Lee and threw him into a rotation that now has its own Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio and Mantle. Doc Halladay. Cliff Lee. Roy Oswalt. Cole Hamels.

People are scrambling all over the Bronx. On the same night Brett Favre surrendered his epic streak of consecutive starts, the Yankees lost their epic streak of free-agent triumphs.

They won the Jeter deal, re-signing him on their terms, but then lost the pitcher who was supposed to help the captain get his first ring for his second hand.

The Yankees thought Cliff Lee was theirs, even if some of their fans had been rude to his wife. So this one hurts. It hurts to the bone.

It hurts more than LeBron.

Andy Martino of the Daily News thinks Lee might regret spurning the Yankees.

The Yankees would have given Lee not just more money, but the security of knowing he would not ever be stuck for long on an irrelevant team. The Phillies might be great next year, and a rotation beginning with Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt sounds like one of the best ever. But what if it doesn't immediately click, due to injuries or inconsistency or other human frailty (remember, that group without Lee was supposed to win a World Series this year)?

This Phils team has a one-year window before it sees sweeping change. Oswalt, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson have potentially expiring deals, and could follow Werth out of town in 11 months. Halladay, Hamels and Victorino might follow in the ensuing years. And Cliff Lee might be stuck chasing the ghosts of an elusive memory, and wishing he had just taken the money.

Will Leitch at New York Magazine tries to make the argument that the Yankees will be glad they did not win the Lee sweepstakes.

Long term, this is probably going to end up being a blessing for the Yankees. (In fact, team officials are actually pretending they're happy this happened). In the madness of free agency bidding and Securing the Player, the Yankees were just about to give a 32-year-old pitcher with a history of back problems $150 million over the next seven years. When you take a step back from that and take a breath, that looks kind of crazy, doesn't it? Particularly when you remember that Lee has really only been an elite pitcher for three years.

But let's get serious: The Yankees didn't get their man. And the Yankees always get their man. (As HardballTalk's Craig Calcaterra pointed out last night, this is the first big free agent to reject the Yankees' advances since Greg Maddux in the early '90s.) The Yankees also still have a rather gaping hole in their rotation, one that they don't believe Kansas City's Zach Greinke — a fragile sort whom neither side thinks will work in The Bronx — can fill. Brian Cashman and company have watched Boston bring in Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez for megabucks this off-season, and they've seen Cliff Lee reject their money, their team and their franchise. We'll talk more a little later today on what their next move should/will be, but right now, their immediate move is to sulk. They needed Cliff Lee next year. They don't have him. There's a ton of work to be done.

And that's just on the field. More to the point, the Phillies have three pitchers in their rotation — Halladay, Lee, Oswalt — that the Yankees have attempted to acquire at some point in the last three years. Baseball observers have recently taken to asking if the Phillies are the Yankees of the National League. The way this Cliff Lee trade has gone, though, it might be better to ask whether the Yankees can get back to being the Phillies of the American League. Because the Yankees did not get their man. Again.

Rangers fans are, of course, bumming just as much as Yankees fans today. Some are waxing poetic. Others are not hiding their disappointment.

No way around it Rangers fans, this one's a loss. A stinging defeat. New owner Chuck Greenberg rolled out the red carpet, investors Ray Davis and Bob Simpson produced the green cash and even general manager Jon Daniels and president Nolan Ryan grudgingly expanded their comfort zones to offer Lee a seventh year.

But in a bottom-line, results-oriented business, the Rangers just swung and missed at the meatiest fastball they've seen in a long time.

By the way, folks over at SB Nation's Phillies site, The Good Phight, seem a little stunned this today.


Lee Shuns Yankees, Rangers to Return to Philly

According to Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated, Cliff Lee finally made his decision, and it was to the much-ballyhooed “Mystery Team”, the Philadelphia Phillies.

Setting up a rotation the likes of which haven’t been seen since late-90’s Atlanta, the lefty hurler shunned what has been reported as a lot of money to return to the ballpark where his half-season helped the Phils win a second consecutive National League Championship in 2009.

This certainly hurts the egos of a lot of Yankees and Rangers fans, as well as anyone who roots for any team in the NL East. More to come.


Cliff Lee Forcing Yankees and Rangers To Wait

Is no news actually bad news for the New York Yankees when it comes to Cliff Lee? It appears the baseball world will have to wait at least a little bit longer for the prized free-agent left-hander to make his choice between the Yankees and Texas Rangers.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says he has “no clue” what Lee will do. Texas manager Ron Washington is optimistic that Lee will stay with the Rangers.

The Yankees say they will not increase the offer they have made to Lee. Thus all both sides can do is wait for Lee to make up his mind.

The New York Times reminds that while Yankee resources give them an edge, they don’t always get their man.

With the Boston Red Sox having signed outfielder Carl Crawford and traded for slugging first baseman Adrain Gonzalez there is pressure on the Yankees to fill their need for another top-flight starter, a weakness that was glaring in the 2010 playoffs. If they can’t Lee, there really is no one else currently on the market who fits the description.


Cliff Lee Gets 'Menu Of Multiple Offers' From Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers have visited with Cliff Lee one final time and made their offer to the free-agent left-hander. Now all the Rangers and New York Yankees can do is wait for Lee to make his decision.

New York … Texas … New York … Texas. Where will Lee go? For the Yankees, their ability to compete with upgraded Boston Red Sox in the American League East, and probably with the Rangers should Lee not come to the Bronx, hangs in the balance.

The Rangers apparently presented Lee with a “menu of multiple offers” for him to sift through. The Yankees have put a seven-year offer on the table for Lee, probably for close to the same $161 million that current Yankees ace left-hander CC Sabathia is earning. The teams apparently expect Lee to take a few days to make his decision.

Whatever that choice is, it will shape the American League power structure for the next season or two.


New York Yankee Rumors: Cliff Lee, Russell Martin And More

Here are some New York Yankees free agency rumors on the night the Baseball Winter Meetings concluded.

— Nothing new from the Yankee side on Cliff Lee, but the Texas Rangers are saying they will know tonight whether or not signing Lee is a realistic option for them.

Reports have indicated that the Yankees have already gone to seven years and in the neighborhood of $165 million. The Rangers are apparently unlikely to go beyond six years.

— The Yankees are one of three teams who have made offers to free-agent catcher Russell Martin, formerly of the Dodgers. The Red Sox, of course, and Toronto are the other two. Martin’s agent, Matt Colleran, said the Yankees told Martin he would be their starting catcher. So much for that Jesus Montero as the catcher plan. Unless, of course, Martin signs with Boston.

— Brian Cashman said he never made an offer for Carl Crawford, who went to Boston for seven years and $142 million.


2011 MLB Free Agency: Carl Crawford To Boston Bad For Yankees, Good For Cliff Lee

As a New York Yankee fan here is my very simple reaction to the news that the Boston Red Sox have signed Carl Crawford. Oh, crap!

While most folks were sleeping, the Red Sox snagged Crawford with a seven-year, $142-million contract. "Great move, great player," was Yankee general manager Brian Cashman's simple reaction this morning.

Everywhere you look this morning, analysts are writing that this move turns up the heat on the Yankees to sign free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, and obviously gives Lee leverage to squeeze more money out of whatever team ends up with him.

That much is obvious. If the Yankees do not land Lee they fall behind the Red Sox, who have signed Crawford and added slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez via trade, in the American League East.

What I want to look at is something different. Short-term, Lee has been the right target for the Yankees all along. It was obvious in 2009 that their front-line starting pitching was not good enough, and Lee is as good as there is in the game right now. Especially in the postseason.

Think about this question, though. Which guy is a better long-term investment, Crawford or Lee? If the Yankees get Lee and he helps them win a championship or two in the first few years of his deal, the Yankees won't care. I think, though, that Crawford might be the better long-term investment.

Here is ESPN's Keith Law summarizing Crawford, who hit .307 with 19 home runs, 90 RBI and 47 stolen bases for Tampa Bay in 2009.

Crawford will play in 2011 at age 29, meaning the contract takes him through his age 35 season, giving Boston several years of his peak and just a few years of decline, since athletic players who play good defense do seem to age better into their 30s. He's the best defensive left fielder in baseball and a plus-plus runner who adds a lot of value through his baserunning as a high-percentage base stealer.

Lee is already 32, and a six-or seven-year deal will take him to age 38 or 39. He is acknowledged as the best postseason pitcher in the game, but there is huge risk long-term contracts for pitchers. The Yankees signed Mike Mussina for seven years back in 2001 and got eight mostly productive ones, but that is the exception. Long-term, big-money deals for pitchers often have disastrous results. Ask the Mets about Johan Santana.

Lee is a control pitcher, not a power one. You still have to wonder how well he will age. He already missed some starts in 2009 with back issues, and you have to wonder if the Yankees -- should they sign Lee -- will be paying an awful lot and not getting much return by the end of a six- or seven-year deal.

Of course, all of this is speculative. Before any of it matters, the Yankees have to get Lee's name on a contract first. Whether the will or not is the $150-million (or more) question.


2011 MLB Free Agency: Cliff Lee Gets Offer From Yankees

So, now we know why Darek Braunecker bolted the Baseball Winter Meetings earlier Wednesday. He headed for Arkansas to talk with his prized client, Cliff Lee, about a mega-offer from the New York Yankees. The Yankees have reportedly made a six-year offer in the neighborhood of $140 million.

"He's got all the information he needs from us," general manager Brian Cashman said. "And I assume he's got the same from everyone else. I know we're in the water here."

While the Yankees wait on an answer from the 32-year-old Lee, Cashman is plotting another moves.

"I'm a little like Hannibal Lecter in the straitjacket right now, waiting on this Cliff Lee thing," Cashman said. "It's kind of restricting my movements a little bit.''

The Yankees have been linked to outfielder Carl Crawford, the best every day player on the free-agent market, and Cashman has said he still needs to address the pitching staff.

The Yankees, though, are willing to wait for Lee to make a decision before doing anything else.

"I know that we're right on the player," Cashman said. "and I hope that if he picks us, he's right on us. This is a great town to play in, a great baseball environment. We have the best fans in the world that support this franchise. I think he'd have great teammates around him that he'd really enjoy playing with."

Yankee manager Joe Girardi met with reporters on Wednesday and could not hide his enthusiasm about the possibility of having Lee in the team's pitching rotation.

"He's a guy that wins. He's a guy that gives you innings," Girardi said. "He's a guy that knows how to pitch on the big stage. He's everything that you'd want, and a guy that you would ask to help you win another championship.

"This is a guy that has great command, never beats himself, he holds runners. He has a mixture of four pitches that he can use at my time. He's the complete package."

Which is precisely why the Yankees will wait as long as they have to.


Braunecker, Lee's Agent, Bolts Winter Meetings

Twitter is on fire with reports that Darek Braunecker, agent for highly-sought after free-agent starting pitcher Cliff Lee, has left the Baseball Winter Meetings.

What the heck is the deal with that? We are into the second week in December, the guy has not allowed the New York Yankees or Texas Rangers — or probably anyone else for that matter — to submit real bid for his client yet, and now he bolts the place where all the people he needs to negotiate with are located?

This whole Lee ‘negotiation,’ if you can call it that at this point, is getting to be a major pain in the neck. The Yankees have other things that they need to do this offseason, like acquire veteran catching help, add a spare outfielder (or maybe a big-time one), construct a bullpen and maybe find an additional starting pitcher.

Lee, however, remains their primary target. It sure would be nice to know how much he is going to cost before they try to fill other needs. I certainly hope there is a good reason for Braunecker to bolt the meetings, because it sure would be nice Braunecker and Lee would actually allow the bidding process to begin.

Right now, they seem to be just fiddling around and holding the Yankees and Texas Rangers hostage.


Cliff Lee: Does He Really Have Seven-Year Offers?

Really? Let's just say the assertion by SI.com's Jon Heyman that free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee has a pair of seven-year contract offers in hand has been met by one resounding feeling -- skepticism.

I would have to share that feeling. Who, exactly, would those two teams be? Who, besides the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers are serious bidders for Lee's services? Who has the financial ability to toss a seven-year offer on the table for a guy who will be 39 when that theoretical contract would expire?

On top of those questions, how can there be two seven-year offers for Lee when his agent, Darek Braunecker, has nto allowed the Yankees or Rangers -- the real bidders -- to make an offer for his client yet?

"I'm willing to get serious," said Yankee GM Brian Cashman. "As a free agent, they dictate the pace. We have to go the dance step. That's how it is."

So, again you have to wonder where Heyman's intel is coming from and how reliable it is. It seems, though, that an offer from the Yankees to Lee is forthcoming as soon as Cashman gets the green light from Braunecker.

"I know what we are willing to do and how far we are willing to go," Cashman said of the Lee contract. "We would love to add Cliff Lee to the Yankee rotation. He knows that. I have a great working relationship with the agent. The player has good ties to some of the players on the team. But, at the end of the day, it is business. It is all business."

You can count on that offer being for a large pile of Steinbrenner cash. Just don't count on it being for seven years.


Baseball Winter Meetings: Ronny Paulino, D.J. Carrasco Sign With Mets

With a new manager in Terry Collins and a new general manager in Sandy Alderson, the New York Mets forged a new beginning. They need, however, to upgrade the talent on the field from last season’s 79-win team.

In an effort to begin doing that, the Mets Tuesday announced the free-agent signings of relief pitcher D.J. Carrasco and backup catcher Ronny Paulino.

Here is how MLB.com framed the signing of the veteran Carrasco:

Carrasco, 33, posted a 3.68 ERA in 63 games split between the Pirates and D-backs last season, striking out 65 batters in 78 1/3 innings. Though he has produced a 4.31 ERA in a six-year career that also included stops in Kansas City and Chicago, Carrasco has improved his ERA for five consecutive seasons.

Having already lost the majority of their bullpen members to free agency, the Mets remain in need of capable arms to slot in front of closer Francisco Rodriguez and setup man Bobby Parnell. One club official expressed optimism Sunday that both Ryota Igarashi and Oliver Perez will win back jobs in the big league bullpen. But beyond those four, the Mets have little of substance.

In the case of Paulino, somebody has to be the backup catcher, and Paulino is an adequate fit there.

Neither of these are earth-shattering signings, but at least Alderson can leave the meetings feeling like he accomplished something.


Derek Jeter Says He's In The 'Middle' Of His Career

For Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees, all is well that ends well. With their highly-publicized contract negotiation behind them, both sides can look ahead to the rest of Jeter's iconic career.

"This is the only organization I've ever wanted to play for and this is where I want to finish my career," Jeter said during a Tuesday afternoon new conference.

Jeter, who has spent a career staying away from controversy, admitted being bothered by the public nature of the negotiations.

"I think the thing that bothered me the most was how public this became. The negotiations were supposed to be private. It was an uncomfortable position I was in ... Throughout the years, I've prided myself on keeping things out of the papers and out of the media.

"I never wanted to be a free agent. It's the situation I was in. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't angry at how some of this went. I'm not going to point the finger at anyone. You can see we're one big happy family now."

Jeter's contract is for three years and $51 million, with a fourth-year player option that could reportedly make it worth $65 million. It sound like Jeter, 36, expects to play beyond when this current contract is complete.

"It's not a situation where I view is as my last contract," he said.

"I have a lot of years left to play in productive baseball. I don't look at the end of my career when I'm in the middle of it. I've taken it year to year. I've always done that. I've pretty much taken every season and focused on trying to improve and to help us win."

Both sides want Jeter to finish his tremendous career as a Yankee. This contract goes a long way toward making sure that happens.


Derek Jeter Contract Made Official By Yankees

It’s official — Derek Jeter will be a New York Yankee for at least the next three years. Jeter has signed a three-year, $51 million contract with a player option for a fourth season.

There will be a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET today.

“I think we expected to get it done,” team president Randy Levine said before the news conference. "We’re delighted that it’s done. … I think it was inevitable that it would get done, and we’re just real happy that it is.

“Every negotiation is a negotiation. Start and ask for ‘A,’ and it’s the old adage — if you don’t ask, you don’t get. It’s that way on both sides. I don’t think it was contentious. It was done in a business-like way. We spent a lot of time with Derek before this was done. He was the usual high-level, integral person that he is. He comported himself with tremendous professionalism, in the spirit of what the captain of the Yankees truly is. I’m just so happy he’s going to be here for three or, hopefully, four years, and I hope he makes every one of those incentives.”

LoHud’s Chad Jennings ran into Joe Torre at the Baseball Winter Meetings and Torre spoke glowingly, of course about the player who always called him ‘Mr. Torre.’

“No question, I don’t wear those rings without Derek Jeter on our club,” Torre said. “We were fortunate to have Derek (at) my Safe At Home Foundation. We honored him in November before he signed. He’s a very private person. I said at that time, and I’m glad it turned out that way, it’s hard for me to believe the Yankees wouldn’t want him back. And I know that’s the only ball club he ever wanted to play for. I’m just happy it worked out for him.

“I talked to him a couple of times over the last, well actually, I talked to him once over the last few weeks and we’ve communicated through the texting, which my daughter taught me how to do. As I say, he’s very private. I’m sure he’s happy it’s over with. What can I say? He’s a special young man, not only the baseball part of the game, but he’s just been a great role model for all the young kids. To do that in New York, especially as a single player where there are a lot of distractions that can certainly cut into what you do, I think he’s been tremendous. Hopefully he continues to stay healthy.”

As a Yankee fan, I am glad this saga is over with. It got way more contentious, at least outwardly, than everyone hoped it would. Jeter gets a deal that doesn’t insult him, and the Yankees are not tied to the iconic shortstop for longer than they want to be.


Seven Years For Cliff Lee? Ridiculous

The Cliff Lee Sweepstakes appear to be getting out of hand -- way out of hand. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Washington Nationals are getting ready to throw a "huge number" at Lee.

That number could include a ridiculous seven-year contract offer for Lee, who will be 32 next season. As Lee's agent, Derek Braunecker, said the other day "it's good to be Cliff Lee."

The Yankees met with Braunecker on Monday at the Winter Meetings. Apparently, no offer was made.

"I know what and where we’re willing to go," Cashman said.

Question is, will that include going to a seventh year? Lee would be 39 by the time a seven-year contract would run out -- a huge gamble. It seems the Nationals, who just dropped a seven-year, $126-million contract on outfielder Jayson Werth, have learned budget management from their neighbors in the federal government.

Obviously, Braunecker and Lee noticed the Werth contract.

"Obviously, it doesn’t hurt anything," Braunecker said. "The market is starting to establish itself for the elite players in this market. To me, I think Jayson Werth is a great player. I don’t view the contract as being exorbitant. "

Lee, of course, is the only true impact pitcher available on the market. Still, seven years seems insane.


Report: Lee Would Stay In Texas If He Can Get Six-Year Deal

No idea whether this is accurate or not at this point, but Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports is reporting via Twitter that prized free-agent Cliff Lee is telling teammates he would return to Texas if the Rangers would sweeten their offer to six seasons.

Well, of course Lee would do that. Or at least say he would do that. It’s been pretty well established that the New York Yankees, the other primary suitor for Lee, do not want to give a six-year deal to a guy who will turn 32 next season. In fact, why would anyone want to do that.

Reality is, I’m not sure anyone really wants to give him five years — but the Yankees and Rangers are probably both willing to do that in order to try and turn the tide in the American League arms race for the next two to three seasons.

There are so many examples of bad long-term contracts given to pitchers that you have to be squeamish about even giving Lee five years, which would take him to age 37. Yes, he is a control pitcher and not a power pitcher, but it is still a huge risk.

As for the sixth year, it is something I cannot imagine the Rangers being able — or willing — to do. Even though Tom Hicks no longer owns the club you would think they learned something about being tied to bad long-term deals from the whole Alex Rodriguez mess.

But, hey, Lee can ask. Maybe someone will be foolish enough to give him that sixth year.


Mariano Rivera: Re-Signs With Yankees For Two Years

As contract negotiations with shortstop Derek Jeter are at a standstill, the New York Yankees reportedly reached a two-year agreement with closer Mariano Rivera on Thursday.

According to Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com:

"On Thursday night the Yankees and Rivera's agent, Fern Cuza, were putting the finishing touches on a contract that will be for around $30 million."  "

The Yankees wanted him back. The only question during the negotiation was whether the deal would be for one year with an option or for two years. Since Rivera had leverage, he was able to get two years guaranteed."

In 2007, New York and Rivera agreed on a three-year, $45-million deal that made the closer the highest paid reliever ever.

Details of the new deal are expected to be announced on Friday.

2010 - Mariano Rivera 3-3 61 0 0 0 33 5 60.0 39 14 12 2 11 45 1.80 .83


Cliff Lee Rumors: Will Somebody Make An Offer Already!

C'mon, people! Will somebody please get around to making a real contract offer for free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee? There are supposedly 'mystery' teams interested in the biggest catch in this offseason's free-agent market, but we all know it comes down to the New York Yankees or Texas Rangers.

The Yankees have visited with Lee, but general manager Brian Cashman is busy rappeling off buildings. Oh, and dealing with that selfish old shortstop ... what's his name? Oh, Derek Jeter. Yeah, that guy. And trying to re-sign geezer closer Mariano Rivera.

The Rangers? Their big-wigs traveled to Arkansas Wednesday for a nice little sitdown with Lee. They came away saying they were "continuing to advance the process."

Huh? C'mon, people. Somebody put a contract offer on the table already. It's the first week in December and no one has even put a real dollar figure in front of the biggest difference-maker in the free-agent market. What the heck? Let's get moving on this, people! George Steinbrenner would never have stood for this nonsense!

Let's go. Type out the piece of paper that says "five years, $115 million," ask Mr. Lee if he will kindly take a pen to your pretty little piece of paper with Rangers/Yankees logos on it and at least get the friggin' bidding started.

Are you out there, Cash? How about you, Nolan Ryan? This isn't a tea party or a social hour. Let's get moving, gang. This is the baseball offseason, the hot stove, the free-agent frenzy and ... and ... and nothing.

Somebody do something already! Or, are you just waiting for Santa to magically drop Lee under your Christmas tree? Because, umm, fellas that isn't going to happen.


Derek Jeter, Yankees Seem To Like Each Other Again

Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees are apparently trying to kiss and make up. The Yankees met Tuesday with Jeter's agent Casey Close -- reportedly their first meeting in three weeks. ESPN indicates that the Yankees would like to have Jeter's signature on a new contract before the Winter Meetings begin next week.

"I feel confident that Derek will remain with the Yankees, and my brother does, as well," New York's co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner said Tuesday night in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We want to keep him. He's very important. I certainly hope he remains with us and he certainly should."

Mind you that this is Hank Steinbrenner talking, but that certainly sounds a lot more conciliatory than most of what we have been hearing lately.

As has been well-documented the Yankees have been offering Jeter a three-year, $45-million contract. Reports have indicated that Jeter is seeking $23-24 million for as many as five seasons. It will be interesting to see which side ends up giving more to get this done. My guess is they will meet in the middle on the money, somewhere around $19-20 million. That is still drastically overpaying for Jeter's current productivity, but it's probably fair considering that this is Jeter. The big question will be whether or not the Yankees budge off the three years. They seem intent on not being tied to Jeter beyond his productive years.


Andy Pettitte To Texas Rangers? Don't Laugh

Are the Texas Rangers making a bid to steal veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte away from the New York Yankees. The Rangers say they are not, but various other reports say they are.

Could you blame the Rangers if they are, indeed, trying to entice Pettitte into pitching in Texas in 2011? It would be the perfect piece of gamesmanship from Rangers president Nolan Ryan, not to mention the fact that Pettitte is still a very good pitcher who can help contending teams. He went 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA in 21 starts in 2009.

Pettitte, of course, lives in Texas. At 39, he annually goes through a decision each winter about whether to continue pitching in New York, which he has said is the only place he would play, or to retire to stay home with his family. The Rangers could offer him the opportunity to do both, and having experienced that during three seasons with the Houston Astros it might be tempting for Pettitte.

Even if Ryan is not serious about making an offer, and Pettitte isn't serious about accepting one from the Rangers, this is great business. It makes the Yankees sweat a little, it allows Pettitte to squeeze a few million more dollars from the Yankees and -- of course -- it is a little tit-for-tat as the Yankees prepare to make a big offer for Texas' free-agent left-hander Cliff Lee.

John Harper of the Daily News warns that the Yankees should not take the possibility of losing Pettitte to the Rangers lightly.

" ... it would be a mistake for the Yankees to dismiss such a notion. Not when Pettitte agonizes annually over the decision to continue playing or retire to a life as a full-time husband and father at home in the Houston area.

The pull of pitching at home in Houston led him to leave the Yankees seven years ago, and while Arlington is a plane ride away from Houston, it's close enough that Pettitte would no doubt be able to get home a lot more during the season.

For that matter, Pettitte last season talked often about how much it bothered him that he couldn't be home to see his oldest son pitch in high school. The idea of being able to shoot home for such occasions surely would have great appeal.

That is probably good advice.


Chris Young To Mets? Possible, But Does Not Seem Imminent

Are the New York Mets close to a free-agent deal with starting Chris Young, or aren't they? Well, it depends on what reports you believe.

Whether they are close to a deal with Young or not, the news  for me is that the Mets are actually doing SOMETHING in the free-agent market. Even if it isn't a big something, it's something. Much has been of the Mets finances and the fact that they really do not have the financial ability to be big players in the market this offseason.

A move for a low-cost pitcher like Young, though, makes sense. A 6-foot-10 right-hander, Young has a career record of 48-34 with a 3.80 ERA in six seasons with Texas and San Diego. The 31-year-old started only four games last season due to shoulder problems, but GM Sandy Alderson and assistant Paul DePodesta are familiar with him from their days in San Diego.

Young has not started more than 18 games in any of the past three seasons, and reports indicate any deal with him would be a low-risk deal that would likely be incentive-laden. Pitching is always at a premium, and Young has in the past been at least a quality middle of the rotation type starter. If the Mets can bring him in maybe they get lucky like they did last season with R.A. Dickey, who had a career, winning 11 games.

Chris Young

#32 / Pitcher / San Diego Padres





May 25, 1979


Yankees Lose Vazquez, But Lee Could Be On The Horizon

The New York Yankees lost one starting pitcher to free agency over the weekend when Javier Vazquez signed with the Florida Marlins. The Yankees hope to be hooking a much bigger fish soon, though, and reports indicate that action on prized left-hander Cliff Lee could heat up this week.

Per ESPN, Lee’s agent, Derek Braunecker, indicated that Lee could meet with as many as three teams this week. It is widely assumed that anyone Lee meets with other than the Yankees or Texas Rangers, who he pitched for at the end of the 2010 season, is just window dressing. Lee will either stay in Texas or pitch for the Yankees.

As for Vazquez, I’m not sure I agree that he is one of the worst Yankees of all time, but the Yankees certainly will not miss him. Vazquez went 10-10 with a horrid 5.32 ERA for the Yankees in 2010. The ESPN piece is full of several other amazing nuggets to show how bad Vazquez has been in two Yankee stints.


New Report: Jeter Wants $23 to $24 Million

After reports came out that Derek Jeter was seeking a six-year, $150-million contract Jeter’s camp moved quickly to squelch that. Word is now that Jeter wants a four-to-five-year deal worth $23-24 million annually.

That is still an awful lot of money, and a lot of years, for a 36-year-old shortstop coming off the worst offensive season of his career.

The New York Times speculated that the amount asked for by Jeter and the three-year, $45-million proposed by the Yankees leaves room for the possibility of a compromise that could appease both sides.

Still, the current offers — three years at $15 million a year by the Yankees and a maximum five years at $23 to $24 million by Close — suggest an obvious compromise in which the two sides would settle at four years and, say, $19 million a year.

If they did agree on those numbers, it would actually represent a small, but symbolic, annual increase over Jeter’s last contract, which, at the behest of George Steinbrenner, was designed to average a sliver below $19 million a year.

A deal that paid $19 million a year would also allow Jeter to rationalize that he was not taking a pay cut, a point that was emphasized on Friday by one National League executive who has been watching the Jeter situation with interest. That executive said that established stars like Jeter typically found it difficult to take any kind of reduction of pay, even when they have already made enormous amounts of money.

While $19 million really is too much if you look simply at the productivity you can expect from Jeter going forward, it is a number I could live with. Especially for a three-year contract. The Yankees have too often made the mistake of tying themselves to an aging star beyond the productive part of their careers, and I am hopeful they won’t do that with Jeter.


Jeter Delusional To Ask For $25 Million Per Year

If Derek Jeter really wants a six-year, $150-million contract from the New York Yankees, which Bill Madden of the New York Daily News says he does, then Jeter and his agent, Casey Close are delusional. And Jeter is acting in a way I never really thought he could -- selfishly.

The Yankees have reportedly offered Jeter a three-year, $45-million contract -- a pretty nice deal for a 36-year-old shortstop with diminishing range coming off the worst offensive season of his career. Yet, Jeter, who just finished a 10-year, $189-million dollar deal, amazingly seems to think he deserves a raise. In case you flunked math, that contract paid him $18.9 million per season. In this one, he is apparently seeking $25 million annually.

Here is part of Madden's report:

Throughout this process, Close and Jeter have never revealed what they're actually looking for - which is why so many Yankee fans, opposing club officials and nationwide media types are asking: Why are the Yankees treating Jeter this way? But sources close to the Jeter/Close camp have said their starting point was six years, $150 million and that they aren't budging on $25 million per year - which would effectively get the captain about even in annual average salary to Alex Rodriguez, the real benchmark from their standpoint in this negotiation.

The Yankees made no secret of where they were coming from in this negotiation - that it was a baseball negotiation, a business negotiation, and not a public relations and marketing negotiation. Just the same, they structured their offer to be significantly higher in both years and dollars than any 36-year-old shortstop, coming off a season in which he hit a career-low .270 and his OPS dropped 161 points to .710, also a career low, could expect in the open market. They did that because, as everyone knows, Jeter is not just any shortstop. He is an iconic Yankee shortstop, and, as such, the Yankees are prepared to pay him upwards of $2 million more than any middle infielder in baseball today for the next three years. Add the $45 million to the $200 million they've already paid him and, at nearly $250 million, Jeter will have been paid more than any other player in the history of baseball except A-Rod and (when he gets his next deal) Albert Pujols.

It's pretty apparent that what the Yankees chose to pay A-Rod - $275 million over 10 years until 2017 - is at the crux of Jeter's and Close's stance. But the circumstances of that deal - dumb as it was - were vastly different than these with Jeter. A-Rod was only 32, coming off a year in which he'd led the majors in homers (56) and RBI (156) and had not yet revealed he'd been a steroids cheat. He was also going to have plenty of suitors in his pursuit of the all-time home run record - not at those ridiculous numbers, but he was going to get his money - and, in the meantime, the Yankees were facing losing their cleanup hitter.

So what you have here is Jeter and Close telling the Yankees: "Who has meant more to this franchise?" Except that it doesn't work that way.

I guess no one should be surprised that A-Rod is at the center of this storm. I think we should be surprised, though, that Jeter is apparently showing real ego in these negotiations.


Yankees Dare Jeter To Find A Better Deal

The New York Yankees and free-agent shortstop Derek Jeter are embroiled in what has become a high-stakes game of chicken. The Yankees have essentially dared the 36-year-old icon to walk away.

"We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. "We've encouraged him to test the market and see if there's something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That's the way it works."

By "this," Cashman has to be referring to the three-year, $45-million contract most reports indicate the Yankees have put on the table for Jeter. There have been indications that Jeter would like a six-year deal that would take him to age 42. Jeter's agent, Casey Close, recently used the word "baffled" when talking about the Yankees approach to negotiating with Jeter.

Pretty obvious the kid gloves are off here. The boxing gloves are on. Jeter is apparently not in the frame of mind to give the Yankees what he might consider a discount, despite being 36 and having just completed the worst offensive season of his career. The Yankees are, obviously, not in the frame of mind to give Jeter whatever he wants simply because his name is Derek Jeter.

So, we have a stalemate.

Tyler Kepner of the New York Times recently penned a great summary of the situation, in which he basically found fault with the stubbornness of both sides.

Jeter has made more than $205 million from the Yankees. He likes it here. The Yankees like him. The sides have had 10 years to think about their next agreement. Did it really have to get nasty?

Is it so hard for the Yankees to recognize that Jeter’s impact goes far beyond statistics? Is it that much of a blow to Jeter’s pride to admit that tying for the major league lead in outs, while playing a young man’s position at age 36, is a legitimate cause for concern?

Kepner is right, of course. He is also right to point out that part of the problem with the Yankees vs. Jeter melodrama is the 10-year contract the Yankees handed Alex Rodriguez a few years back. That deal will, not so coincidentally, take A-Rod to age 42. Jeter, I would have to believe, looks at that deal and at what he has done for the franchise in comparison to Rodriguez and feels he should be taken care of by the Yankees for just as long.

That deal, however, was engineered by the reckless Hank Steinbrenner. Jeter is now deal with Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner, who are much less inclined to put emotion ahead of business.

I think the Yankees will eventually budge off the three-year, $45-million. They want Jeter and he wants them, despite all this mayhem. Maybe the Yankees will move to four years at, say, $64-68, million. But not more than that.

Jeter, though, eventually has to realize one thing. The Yankees hold all the cards here. The franchise has survived plenty of ugly breakups, and while there would be a short-term firestorm they would survive a breakup with Jeter, too. It is Jeter's legacy that would suffer most -- not the Yankees reputation, ticket sales or ability to win on the field. None of that would change dramatically if Jeter were to pack his bags and go pursue 3,000 hits elsewhere.

Buster Olney of ESPN addressed the Yankees' stance on Jeter in a Tuesday blog entry.

Here's one big factor working against Jeter in this negotiation: While the Yankees want him and are offering him above what his market value is, they operate in the knowledge that if Jeter doesn't re-sign -- if he actually walks away -- then his departure would not be a mortal blow to their pennant hopes in 2011. If Jeter walked away in 2001, that would have been different; he was an exceptional player then.

Now he is a good player, but far from irreplaceable.

Ultimately, the Yankees want to win World Series titles. They would rather try to do it with Jeter, which is why they are already offering him more than any other franchise is likely to even approach. Yankee fans would rather see them do it with Jeter, too.

It will be interesting to see which side blinks first. My guess is it will have to be Jeter. He has more to lose.


Performance Vs. Persona Make This A Difficult Deal

If reports are correct the negotiations between Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees are headed down a difficult path — something you have to be sure neither side really wanted.

The official line from the Yankees is that the negotiation is proceeding as all negotiations do, at its own pace and with its own unique potholes and sticking points.

“Derek Jeter is a great Yankee and he’s a great player,” said Levine. “With that said and done, now is a different negotiation than 10 years ago.”

That last statement is open to many interpretations, but its essential meaning seems pretty clear. Jeter is 10 years older than he was when he signed that $189 million contract from The Boss following a triumphant 2000 World Series in which the Yankees beat the Mets and Jeter was voted the Series MVP.

He is not, however, 10 years better. His best playing days are behind him and his inevitable decline has probably begun. He will turn 37 before the 2011 All-Star break, older than any other starting shortstop in the league, and despite winning the Gold Glove at his position for the 2010 season, he has clearly lost significant range in the field.

And his bat, always reliable, fell off 44 points from his career average of .314, and 64 points off his transcendent 2009 season, when he hit .334.

He earned $21 million last season, but at this stage of his career, he is a $21 million player by reputation only. Still, the source said the Yankees are willing to keep him at that level for three more years, if only out of loyalty and gratitude for past favors.

Indications are that the Yankees would be willing to give him that $21 million salary, provided Jeter is willing to accept a three-year contract. At 36, with an aging roster and looking at a player whose offensive performance slid sharply in 2010 the Yankees understandably want to make a sound baseball decision. At least in terms of the number of years they guarantee the iconic shortstop.

Jeter reportedly wants anywhere from four to six years. He still wants the big money, too. A discount to make sure he finishes his storied career in pinstripes? it doesn’t sound like that is part of Jeter’s plan.

It also doesn’t sound like the Yankees plan to open the vault simply because this is Jeter we are talking about.

“He’s a baseball player, and this is a player negotiation. Everything he is and who he is gets factored in. But this isn’t a licensing deal or a commercial rights deal, he’s a baseball player,” Randy Levine said. “With that said, you can’t take away from who he is. He brings a lot to the organization. And we bring a lot to him.”

So, there you have it. Question is, who will blink first?


Reports: Cashman Meeting With Cliff Lee

The wooing of prized free-agent starting pitcher Cliff Lee by the New York Yankees has reportedly reached the face-to-face meeting stage.

Both the New York Post and ESPN New York are reporting this morning that Yankees' general manager Brian Cashman is in Arkansas today to meet with Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker.

From the Post:

With this meeting, the Yankees are hopeful Cashman can begin to separate the Yankees from other contenders, namely the Rangers, for whom Lee played last season.

But the Yankees believe Lee and Braunecker plan to survey the landscape thoroughly before making a decision. Thus, the Yankees are under the impression that making an offer today will not significantly give them an advantage.

Lee is the Yankees' main, outside free-agent priority this offseason as they have recognized adding a high-end starter as their greatest need.

They know it is going to take a minimum of a four-year contract and probably more, at near or more than the $23 million CC Sabathia averages a year to get it done. Sabathia's annual total is the record for a pitcher on a multiyear contract.

ESPN speculates that Lee wants a contract similar to Sabathia's seven-year, $162 million deal.

Lee would be the ultimate offseason prize for the Yankees. I can't help but set the mood for the day with a little music. Is Cashman ... Knocking On Heaven's Door today?


Report Says Yankees Will Overpay Derek Jeter

How the New York Yankees will handle the negotiations with iconic 36-year-old free-agent shortstop Derek Jeter is one of the most interesting questions of the baseball offseason.

ESPN New York reported Monday that the Yankees are likely to overpay Jeter, placing more value on his legacy than his current on-field production.

"The Yankees are going to overpay him," said a source with intimate knowledge of the discussions between the team and Casey Close, Jeter's agent. "The question is, how much are they going to overpay him?"

From conversations with two sources, both of whom requested anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks, Jeter's offer is expected to be for three years at somewhere between $15 million and $20 million per season.

That would be a slight paycut from his $21 million paycheck in 2010, but still well above the going rate for a shortstop who hit .270 last year and will hit his 37th birthday two weeks before the next All-Star Game.

"Some people will think the number is unfair," said one source, "And some are going to think it is way too much."

And both sources made it clear that in their opinion, Jeter will be paid more than he is currently worth on performance alone.

"Jeter's numbers are exactly the same as Marco Scutaro's," one of the sources said. "He's gonna get paid a lot more than Scutaro, of course. He's gonna get more than the best shortstop in the league, Hanley Ramirez, who makes less than $12 million a year."

In all honesty, I have no problem with this. The Yankees, obviously, have the money. Why should they low-ball the best shortstop in franchise history, a guy with five World Series rings, who has been the face of the franchise during a hugely successful run and who should next season become the first player to collect 3,000 hits as a Yankee?

There really is no reason. Even if he does post Marco Scutaro numbers.


Cliff Lee Sweepstakes: Yankees Make Initial Contact

ESPN reported today that the New York Yankees have contacted the agent for highly-sought after free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee.

The Yankees called Cliff Lee’s agent Sunday on the first day of the free-agent negotiating period to say they will be back in touch with an offer for the top pitcher on the market, a baseball official familiar with the conversation told The Associated Press.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the team didn’t announce the contact with agent Darek Braunecker.

Texas hopes to re-sign the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, who led the Rangers to their first World Series after he was acquired from Seattle in July. The Yankees have made signing Lee the top priority among free agents, in addition to re-signing their own players.

Lee, a 32-year-old left-hander, was a combined 12-9 with a 3.18 ERA for the Mariners and Rangers, striking out 185 and walking 18 in 212 1/3 innings. He was 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA in eight career postseason starts before losing to San Francisco in Games 1 and 5 of the World Series.


MLB Free Agents Can Now Negotiate With All Teams

The 2011 MLB free-agent frenzy begins for real today. That is because the exclusivie negotiating window teams had to make deals with their own free agents has expired, and free agents are now able to negotiate with all teams.

That means Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte are all on the market. It also means the Yankees can finally begin their pursuit of starting pitcher Cliff Lee.

ESPN New York offers what seems to be a pretty accurate summary of the Yankees’ free-agent intentions.

The Yankees are considered the favorites with Texas for the rights to Lee. Lee, 32, is expected to initially ask for a contract similar to CC Sabathia’s seven-year, $161 million deal. But teams like the Los Angeles Angels and even the Washington Nationals could show interest.

The Yankees will likely monitor the Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth Sweepstakes, but at the moment are looking to focus their money on pitching. If they fail to land Lee, then Crawford or Werth could become a Plan B. The Angels and Boston Red Sox are expected to be interested in the outfielders.

If the Yankees were to go after an outfielder, they would probably make a trade involving Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson or Brett Gardner. If they fail to sign Lee, they most likely turn their attention to talks with other teams and attempt to make a trade for a big-name starter.

It is a foregone conclusion that both Jeter and Rivera will return to the Yankees — the question will be for how much. Pettitte will also return — if he chooses not to retire.

(See Keith Law’s breakdown of the top 50 free agents)


Mets Will Let Takahashi Go

Hisanori Takahashi will become a free agent after he and the New York Mets were unable to reach a contract agreement.

The Mets and Takahashi’s agent, Arn Tellem, were expected to announce later Friday that they could not come to an agreement on his contract, and the Mets will be obligated by the terms of his contract to release him.

Takahashi was asking for a multi-year contract with a value of between $4 and $6 million annually, and the Mets were willing to give him only one year. The team’s initial offer was for $1.5 million, with incentives that could allow him to earn close to $3 million.

The sides had until midnight Saturday morning to complete a deal.

Takahashi went 10-6 with a 3.61 ERA for the Mets in 53 games, including 12 starts. He will be 36 next season.


Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth Not In Yankees' Plans

For months, analysts have figured that in addition to starting pitcher Cliff Lee the New York Yankees were positioning themselves to make a run at Carl Crawford or Jayson Werth, the two biggest-name free-agent outfielders available this offseason.

Well, it appears that will not be the case. The Yankees came away from their organizational meetings earlier this week saying they will not be pursuing either Tampa Bay's Crawford or Philadelphia's Werth.

This decision speaks volumes for what the Yankees think of their current starting outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. It is particularly good news for Gardner and his legion of fans. The speedy, left-handed hitting left fielder hit .277 with five home runs, 47 RBI and 47 stolen bases. Gardner, 27, was playing regularly in the big leagues for the first time.

Crawford, 29, hit .307 with 19 home runs, 90 RBI and 47 stolen bases for Tampa Bay.

"We are better with Crawford, but at that price?" a Yankees source said. "I'm not sure it's that good of an upgrade."
Werth, 29, hit 27 home runs, drove in 85 runs and batted .296 for Philly. The Yankees would probably have to deal the popular Nick Swisher if they were to pursue Werth.

This also means that the Yankees appear to be satisfied with Curtis Granderson. The center fielder, acquired from Detroit, hit just .247 for the season, but did have 24 home runs and 67 RBI. The Yankees seem confident that Granderson, who improved dramatically the last three months of the season after working with hitting coach Kevin Long, is back on the right track.

Of course, should the Yankees fail in their bid to acquire Lee all bets are off. It would hardly be surprising to see them change course, go after Crawford or Werth, and use the surplus outfielder to try and acquire a pitcher via trade.

Derek Jeter, New York Yankees See 'Business' Differently

The last thing the New York Yankees want is a messy free-agent negotiation with iconic shortstop Derek Jeter. Apparently, though, that is exactly what they could get.

Most reports indicate that the Yankees, who Hal Steinbrenner emphatically said Wednesday are "running a business here," are likely to offer Jeter a 2- to 3-year contract. SI.com's Jon Heyman has reported that Jeter is looking for a six-year deal. Yikes! That would mean signing the 36-year-old Jeter to a deal that would take him to age 42.

Jeter's agent, Casey Close, made it obvious Wednesday that Jeter is seeking a big contract, advancing age and declining skills not withstanding.

"While it is not our intent to negotiate the terms of Derek's free-agent contract in a public forum," Casey Close told FanHouse, "we do agree with Hal's and Brian (Cashman, the GM)'s recent comments that this contract is about business and winning championships.

"Clearly, baseball is a business, and Derek's impact on the sport's most valuable franchise cannot be overstated. Moreover, no athlete embodies the spirit of a champion more than Derek Jeter."

Jeter's 10-year, $189 million contract has run its course. It is clear that signing him to a workable deal without insulting the Yankee Captain is not going to be easy.

Jeter's on-field performance in 2010 does not help his bargaining position. He had career lows is several offensive categories this season -- a .270 batting average, .340 on-base percentage, .370 slugging percentage an .710 OPS. All of those numbers are well below his career average.

Jeter will be trying to sell the Yankees on what he has meant, and still means, to the franchise. On the five championships he has been a major contributor to. On the fact that he is closing in on becoming the first player in the history of the franchise to reach 3,000 hits, a plateau he will reach next season if he is healthy. He has 2,926. On the fact that HE IS DEREK JETER, face of the franchise.

This is a case where winning, and the Yankees' expectation of being in the hunt for a championship every season, may actually hurt them. Some franchises would overpay a declining player simply to keep him around, honor his career achievements, and hope he still puts fans in the stands as he surpasses individual career milestones.

The Yankees will, of course, consider that. Bottom line for Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Co., though, is winning. Derek Jeter has been the ultimate winner throughout his career. What the Yankees have to decide is how much longer he can be that guy. And how much that is worth to them.


Cliff Lee And The New York Yankees: Texas Rangers Will Fight To Keep Their Man

Everyone who follows baseball knows that the New York Yankees want free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee, the postseason ace and easily the best starting pitcher available this offseason. The Yankees will likely dig deeeeeeep into their considerable cash reserves to bring Lee to the Bronx. It is not, however, as cut-and-dried that they will be successful in wooing Lee as was thought just a few months ago.

For one thing, Lee is playing his cards right by making sure he leaves the Rangers feeling like they have a legitimate shot to keep him.

"I like this team. It's a very fun team to play on," Lee said. "I expect this team to do some really good things next year. I don't know if I'm going to be a part of it or not. To be honest with you, I would love to be, but so many things can happen. You never know.

"There's a lot to build on," Lee said after taking the loss in the World Series finale. "We did a lot of firsts for this organization. We were the second-best team in the big leagues. We should be proud of that. We're going to use this for motivation and come in next year and try to do better."

The Rangers, obviously, do not have the financial resources to equal the Yankees. They do, however, think they have enough to make Lee an offer he will have to think about.

"We're not going into it with a pea-shooter," owner Chuck Greenberg famously said in New York during the ALCS. The Rangers think they can match or even outdo the Yankees on a chance to win, too.

"You tell me which team has a better chance to win over the next 5-6 years," one Rangers official said confidently during the World Series.

The New York Times took a look at the finances of the Rangers, who are under new ownership, and came away with the conclusion that Texas should have the financial ability to afford both Lee and star center fielder Josh Hamilton, who also needs a new contract.

Team ownership changed in August from Tom Hicks, who weighed down the Rangers with debt that exceeded M.L.B.’s limits, to a group led by Nolan Ryan and Chuck Greenberg, who have a cleaner balance sheet because of the bankruptcy and deep-pocketed investors backing them.

Bob Simpson, one of those investors, told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram last week, “We’re going to go after Cliff Lee — hard, and we have the financial firepower to do that.”

Lee, 32, has been one of baseball's most dominant starting pitchers the past three seasons and earned the CY Young Award in 2008 when he went 22-3 for the Cleveland Indians. His postseason record in the past two season (7-2, 2.13 ERA) is another reason teams like the Yankees and Rangers want to keep him. His only two postseason losses came to San Francisco in the just-concluded World Series.

The biggest question for any team signing Lee will be how many years to commit to a pitcher who, while he does not rely on a blazing fastball, will still be in his late 30s at the conclusion of any long-term contract.

Cliff Lee

#33 / Pitcher / Texas Rangers





Aug 30, 1978

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