The drop-off between Cliff Lee and the rest of the free agent starting pitching market is sizable, and that allows the left-hander a certain amount of comfort as his representatives approach the task of securing a large contract this winter.
Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, told The Associated Press on Monday that his camp is only “gathering information” at this point, and that no deal is expected to be reached quickly.
“This one certainly is a little bit unique in that he’s clearly the best player on the free-agent market and not a lot of other things are going to impact our position on Cliff,” Braunecker said.
Braunecker may not even attend next week’s General Manager’s meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., not needing to drum up interest in Lee. There is also no need to take Lee on a tour of the cities where he could pitch next year.
The Yankees and Rangers are thought to be among his most interested suitors, while the Phillies, Brewers, Cubs, Nationals and Angels could also jump in. Lee’s eventual contract may be a five or six year deal, worth upwards of the $23 million per season the Yankees are paying CC Sabathia.
“We’re going to take it on of kind of a team-by-team, case-by-case basis. I don’t expect Cliff to be flying all over the country,” Braunecker said. “We’re really in just the infancy stages of it all. We don’t really ever handicap the timing of any of this stuff. We believe that when the right deal presents itself, we’ll be prepared to act. And when that might be, that’s anybody’s guess at this point.”
Some notes and quotes from around the New York media this morning as we gear up for the July 31 non-waivers Trade Deadline…
Yankees GM Brian Cashman told the New York Daily News’ Peter Botte that “Cliff Lee was a special case” and that situations like this are why Sergio Mitre is on the team. It sounds like Mitre will get every chance to keep the rotation moving through until Pettitte returns in an estimated four to five weeks. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks doesn’t believe it.
The Yankees – as well as the Red Sox – have significant interest in Blue Jays reliever Scott Downs, according to AOL FanHouse’s Ed Price. Yankees scout (and former outfielder) Kevin Reese was watching the Blue Jays last night, writes the New York Post’s Brian Costello.
The Daily News also notes that the Yankees are not expected to pursue the Astros’ Roy Oswalt. Makes sense – Oswalt is owed $16 million for 2011 and has an option for 2012, and with Pettitte and Javier Vazquez no locks to return next year, the Yankees might be gearing to spend that money on Cliff Lee.
Mark Teixeira’s new batting stance is paying dividends, writes the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger’s Mike Mazzeo. Derek Jeter is getting frustrated with his slump, writes The New York Times’ Joe LaPointe, who quotes Joe Girardi as saying Jeter has “a few more wrinkles in his forehead.”
Remember Jon Weber? The career Minor Leaguer nearly made the Yankees this spring and retired on Thursday after playing his final game with the Toledo Mud Hens in the Tigers chain. Major League Baseball hit him yesterday with a 100-game suspension for “a third positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.”
Updating this post to reflect the latest…
By now, you’ve probably heard the reports that the Yankees were involved heavily in trade talks to acquire Cliff Lee from the Mariners – maybe as soon as today. Lee is scheduled to pitch for Seattle tonight and, at last check, he’s still in line to do so. But if Brian Cashman can get this done, he’d be scratched and sent down the hallway to be fitted for a Yankees uniform.
There may have been a late snag as the two clubs worked on getting Lee into the Yankees dugout before first pitch. The New York Post was out front in reporting Friday afternoon that the Mariners were backing away from the deal, which had earlier been reported to be very close to completion.
It seems the deal would have included Jesus Montero, and reports have mentioned Double-A second baseman David Adams as well. Montero’s bat is considered close to big league ready, but he’s a catcher and the Yankees can deal from a position of strength there.
Jorge Posada is still under contract for another year, Francisco Cervelli is a capable backup and prospect Austin Romine projects as a better all-around catcher than Montero, whose big build might move him from behind the plate down the line.
So why make the deal at all? Lee would slide in as either the Yankees’ No. 1 or No. 2 starter, depending on where you want to put his old Indians teammate, CC Sabathia. All-Stars Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes are also in the rotation, but A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez have been suspect at times this year.
With a six-man rotation, Vazquez could have become a trade commodity – he’s a free agent after ’10 and the Yankees aren’t likely to offer him arbitration. This could be a way to get some compensation for a pitcher who might be the odd man out, even though he’s had a 3.05 ERA since May 12. Also, with Nick Johnson out, the Yankees could have used Vazquez to acquire a bat.
Phil Hughes was a little bit off last night provided a few days off extra rest, as Cliff Lee and the Mariners beat the Yankees, 7-4, on Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees also welcomed pitching coach Dave Eiland back after his lengthy absence for personal reasons.
It’s worth noting that All-Star balloting ends tomorrow, and while Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano are secure, the rest of the Yankees could use your help. Fans can vote up to 25 times using MLB.com, so do your part and make your voice heard.
The Yankees have not made a roster move today to call up an outfielder, believing they can get through another day and wanting to keep an extra arm in their tired bullpen.
But there are some rumblings filtering through the Internet that Sergio Mitre’s spot on the pitching staff might not be safe: there is a report that states the Yankees and Reds are discussing a trade that would bring former Red Sox Bronson Arroyo to New York.
Seems the Bombers are also kicking the tires with the Mariners on Jarrod Washburn (again), and have been linked to scouting Cliff Lee and Ian Snell, among others. So, yes, if the Yankees do wind up making a move, it looks like it’s going to be for a pitcher.
More in a bit.