Cliff Lee may get a new contract offer from the New York Yankees sooner than expected. With the Yankees looking to improve their pitching, Lee is the best option on the market right now. As such, it was expected that there would be negotiations taking place pretty quickly, but apparently they may already be underway.
According to ESPN, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has already contacted Lee’s agent. This means that they could be setting up meetings between Lee and Yankees management already, furthering the claims that a contract offer is ready to be given. It’s very unclear exactly what the ballpark number for Lee is going to be in this free agency, especially when he is the best pitcher available by such a large margin.
Lee just finished helping the Texas Rangers to an American League West divisional title, as well as their first trip to the World Series. His stock has gone way up in just a few short weeks, and the success he had against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series will translate into even more dollars in his next contract. Lee finished 2010 with a 12-9 record, but many of those losses came while he was pitching for the struggling Seattle Mariners at the beginning of the season.
It wasn’t just the pitching that let down the Yankees this postseason, though, as their aging infielders struck out quite a bit against Texas. It means that the Yankees are going to need to target someone like Carl Crawford to put in left field if they want to be substantially better than last year, but getting Lee will of course mean they need to score fewer runs to compete. Putting Lee with CC Sabathia at the top of their rotation would give the Yankees one of the best starting staffs in baseball.
So how much will it be that the Yankees offer (or have offered) Lee? Sabathia got a seven-year, $161 million deal when they sat down to negotiate, a contract that was sent up in value after Sabathia had a great postseason for the Milwaukee Brewers. Lee should be offered money that is right in that neighborhood, but with the expectation that the Texas Rangers will try to get Lee’s services as well, the Yankees might have to over-pay in order to guarantee they secure the only ace on the free agent market.
Lee isn’t the only player the Yankees need to deal with right now either, as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and Andy Pettitte are all free agents as well. Negotiating with three of their aging players could be problematic, especially if they have to over-pay players for their name value and not necessarily what they can do on the field over the next few years. The Jeter negotiations in particular could be pretty drama-filled if the Yankees don’t offer him a nice deal immediately.
Regarding the potential signing of Cliff Lee, it appears quite likely that the Yankees will be the first team to extend an offer (if they haven’t already), and that we could see Lee sign his new deal before the month of November even closes out.