This time last year, the Yankees seemed certain to eventually become heavy bidders in the Carl Crawford sweepstakes. Their outfield was questionable at best, and Crawford seemed to be the top player heading for free agency.
Since then, two things have changed: The outfield has gotten better and the rotation has gotten worse.
Today, it’s clear Cliff Lee is the Yankees top target. They badly need another front-of-the-rotation starter, and Andy Pettitte’s questionable return means they need quantity as well as quality. Lee seems to be the perfect fit.
Crawford represents an upgrade, but not an essential one. The Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson last winter, and not long after, Nick Swisher went to work making mechanical changes that made him a better hitter (he also seemed like a better defender last season). Brett Gardner had a breakout season to emerge as a more-than-viable option in left field. The Yankees need outfield depth, but their starters are good.
But Crawford is Crawford, and the Yankees are the Yankees.
Buster Olney has reported that the Yankees had a long “Crawford-related” meeting yesterday. Crawford himself might have been there. That may very well have been what Brian Cashman was hinting at yesterday when he said, “I’ve already met with one player, and I intend to meet with another player.” Olney reports Crawford himself might have been there, and the Yankees might be able to make a play for both Lee and Crawford if Pettitte doesn’t come back.
What’s difficult to know — and this has been the case with every Yankees rumor this week — is how much of this is genuine interest, and how much of this is the “wide net” Cashman has cast into the market. If he simply checking in, keeping his finger on the pulse? Or is he legitimately putting himself in a position to strike?