One day of Winter Meetings down and though to the naked eye it might not seem as anything major has happened, trust me, it’s coming. Yesterday was a good day of positioning and testing the waters of the remaining free agents. Obviously not all the free agents will be signed during this week, but I watch for a good handful to sign with teams before the end of the next weekend.
But let’s be honest, right now none of y’all care what I have to say about any free agent without using the words, “Cliff Lee.” So I will cut through the multiple paragraphs of breakdowns and opinions and BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!
Yesterday we learned that Darek Braunecker, Cliff Lee’s agent, was in contact with multiple GMs to set up sit-downs to talk logistics about his client. Braunecker stated that they have visited with “significantly more clubs” than just the Rangers and Yankees (SALT…take that with salt). The other teams whose names consistently are popping up or being linked to Lee are the Red Sox, Phillies, and Nationals. In the past we have heard the Angels, Tigers, and White Sox names mentioned, but now that it is time to “play ball” those teams seem to have tapered off. I honestly don’t see the Nationals having the money to spend on Lee, with the Nats having just dropped $126MM for Werth. However multiple “rival” executives keep saying they think the Nationals are going to throw “HUGE money” at Lee. And I don’t see Lee returning to Philadelphia since they traded him away to Seattle in order to add Roy Halladay. The Red Sox motive, since they need hitters and not pitchers, is likely to drive the price up a little bit. I can confidently say that Lee will be a Ranger or a Yankee.
I have heard confirmed reports that both the Rangers and Yankees meet with Braunecker last night, but that no money or contract lengths were talked about, as one source said the meetings were to “tighten up the nuts and bolts.” (ok..Salt!)
Late last night a report came through that a team was suggesting they were willing to offer a seven-year deal, and as my colleague Bo Reed pointed out, the Ranger fan base collective hearts grasped for a breath in fears it was the Yankees. I’m not even going to pretend that we can still sign Lee if they offer seven years. But within the next 15 minutes, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, confirmed that it was not the Yankees as “[they] don’t plan to offer Lee a seven-year deal,” later saying that seven years is a “dealbreaker.” Therefore, I’m theorizing that it is a lesser involved team trying to make a stab at him and likely attempt to force the Ranger or Yankee hand and offer seven years.
So as you can clearly see, last night the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes was heating up and may very well reach a roaring boil sometime today. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman reiterated this morning that the Yankees are planning on offering Lee a six-year deal, and have no intention of a seventh year. Over the past few days we had heard that the Rangers were preparing to offer him a five-year deal. Also we heard on Sunday that Lee would sign with the Rangers if they offered a sixth year. (SALT!!!...It really wouldn’t be that easy or he would have signed by now).
Some experts at the Winter Meetings are still suggesting that Lee will get his seven year deal, personally I would have to disagree, I believe he will sign a six-year deal.
Now within the past hour some figures are starting to surface and this gets things very interesting. I believe and my colleague does as well that the Rangers will offer, and can afford, a six-year, $140MM contract. Moments after hearing about that Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote “that the Yankees vowed not to exceed six years or $161MM that they gave Sabathia for Lee.” Sherman then went on to say he “feels the Yankees will top out at $144-150MM over six years.” And then in an interesting, if not boneheaded statement, the Yankees GM Brian Cashman said that Sabathia’s presence as an ace makes Lee a “pleasant addition,” but not a necessity. (I have to say take with a little bit of salt here, right? Do you really think Cliff Lee wants to hear that, that no matter what you will be the second fiddle. Personally that sounds like a justification if you don’t sign him.)
That is all for now, but as always stay tuned, there will be more I can guarantee you that.