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)