Notes and links on a slow day • 12.11.10
The Yankees made their first offer to Cliff Lee on Wednesday. The Rangers flew to Arkansas to make their offer on Thursday. When I checked with Brian Cashman on Friday night, he literally told me to “enjoy the night.” There would be no news to report.
It’s the same story today. Lee has been meticulous in this process, making what is surely the biggest decision of his career.
Everyone else is left waiting. Many of them waiting anxiously.
At the end of another one of those slow days of waiting, here are a few notes and links from around baseball.
• You might want to look away, but my friend Ben Shpigel did a nice job looking back at the last time the Yankees targeted a premier starting pitcher with incredible control and missed out.
• Great stuff from the Boston Herald outlining the way the Carl Crawford deal came together for Boston.
• Speaking of Crawford, Thomas Boswell makes the case that Crawford’s talent is wasted in Fenway Park.
• Plucked from the Yankees, Rule 5 pick Lance Pendleton will have a chance to win a rotation spot with the Astros.
• The Tigers are planning to move Phil Coke back into the rotation. He was a starter through most of his minor league career, but things never really took off for him until he moved to the bullpen.
Waiting game continues for the Yankees • 12.10.10
When Brian Cashman bolted from the Swan and Dolphin yesterday morning, I followed. Cliff Lee’s agent was already gone, now the Yankees general manager was also hitting the road. I decided to get to the airport five hours early and try to fly standby. It worked, and I shared a flight with … you guessed it … Brian Cashman. And as a perfect metaphor for the past four days, our flight was delayed two hours.
Cashman was once again forced to wait.
It’s hard to argue against the Red Sox being the big winners of the Winter Meetings. They got the best offensive players available on the trade and free agent markets, replacing and possibly upgrading on the losses of Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. They needed offense, and they got it.
The Yankees, though, don’t need offense. They need pitching, and pitching is taking a while.
Before he left, Cashman once again reiterated that he was never a serious player in the Carl Crawford sweepstakes. But wasn’t Crawford a backup plan?
“That’s not true,” Cashman said. “We never made an offer. I’ve reached out to everybody and anybody, but that’s not a need for us. We have Gardner, Granderson and Swisher, and I have a certain amount of money I can spend. I’m going to be aggressive on the areas of need, not areas that aren’t of need.”
Yankees fans can be and probably should be worried about the Red Sox upgrades — no team made itself better this week the way Boston made itself better — but the Yankees have more important things to spend their money on than Crawford, and they have no need to trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Offense came off the board quickly, and the Red Sox took advantage. That’s why they won the Winter Meetings.
“We’ll do what makes sense for us in our world,” Cashman said.
The Yankees have to wait for what they need. And that’s why they came home with nothing officially accomplished.
Associated Press photo of Cashman. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired to posting pictures of him in that elf suit. Too funny.
The number seven • 12.09.10
This craziness started on Sunday night when Jayson Werth got a seven-year deal with the Nationals. The market for premier free agents was set, and the top two were still on the board.
Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee were inevitably going to take Werth’s deal to the bank. Late last night, Crawford cashed in on the largest contract ever given to an outfielder. This morning, we learned that the Yankees were willing to go seven years for Lee. It’s entirely possible they were always willing to go seven.
Joel Sherman reports that Brian Cashman has actually presented Lee with a series of options ranging from five years to seven, with the average annual value getting smaller as the years grow longer.
Are they on the verge of overpaying? Maybe, but this is the market. Lee is a pitcher and thus carries more risk than a couple of corner outfielders, but he’s also the undisputed king of this winter’s bidding. The Angels have money to spend. The Rangers are still making a push. At various times the Phillies and suddenly free-spending Nationals have been mentioned as dark horse candidates.
The Yankees have a glaring need in the rotation, the market doesn’t offer an obvious alternative and every long-term, high-dollar deal involves considerable risk. The Yankees are going to take that risk with Lee.
“Our desire is the same today as it was prior to that (Crawford) signing,” Cashman said this morning. “I don’t think you can increase it any more. We have a significant interest in Cliff Lee, and we’ve communicated that.”
Worth waiting for • 12.08.10
Brian Cashman was in full “no comment” mode. He would admit to meeting this afternoon with Cliff Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, but he wouldn’t admit to making an offer for the left-handed free agent.
“I may have made an official offer,” he said. “I’m just deciding not to admit whether I have or haven’t. For some reason.”
Exactly 20 seconds went by.
“Yeah, we’ve made an offer,” Cashman said. “You guys have worn me out.”
Braunecker left Orlando today and went to Arkansas, where he’s scheduled to meet with Lee and Lee’s wife to discuss the situation as it stands. Cashman said Braunecker wanted to get all the offers on the table before discussing the situation with his client, and Cashman said he couldn’t argue with that strategy. Braunecker was just as thorough two years ago when negotiating the A.J. Burnett deal. The only difference then, Cashman said, was that Burnett became a bidding war between the Yankees and Braves. Cashman called Braunecker “direct and honest.”
Now the Yankees have to wait. Cashman said his offer was exactly what the Yankees always planned to offer. It was not affected by recent events, and it was not some sort of counter offer to a proposal from the Lee camp.
“If it takes time, so be it,” Cashman said. “He’s someone that’s worth waiting for.”
Notes from Day 3: Girardi edition • 12.08.10
Let’s face it, these have been the Cliff Lee Meetings. Major League Baseball is only playing a secondary role.
When Joe Girardi sat for his Winter Meetings press conference, this afternoon, the first bundle of questions were about the most obvious topic.
According to Girardi, Cliff Lee has been “on (the Yankees) radar screen for a while.” Adding him to the rotation is “pretty important” because Lee is a “guy that wins” and even though no deal has been reached, Lee is “someone that we’ll continue to pursue.”
So, clearly Girardi broke some new ground on the Lee front.
Actually, the most interesting Lee tidbit might have been the fact Girardi has not been involved in the conversations at all. “I’ll talk to Cash and see what he wants me to do,” Girardi said. Otherwise, it was pretty much the same non-information.
Lee is good. The Yankees need a starter. The pursuit is ongoing. That’s the bottom line.
And for whatever it’s worth, I gladly would have given Pete Caldera my seat in front of Girardi’s table if I’d known standing behind Girardi would have gotten me in the Associated Press photo. Live and learn.
Other notes from the Yankees manager:
• On the possibility of Lee landing elsewhere: “We have explored options. And I do feel that there are some options out there. Obviously, as I’ve said all along, Cliff Lee is the complete package. It was a guy that we tried to trade for at the deadline. It’s a guy that we followed very closely. But the one thing that the Yankees always do if something doesn’t work out, they always have other options, and they’ll consider other options.”
• No surprise, but Girardi clearly indicated that one of those other options might include Carl Crawford. “We have a very good outfield,” Girardi said. “But it’s something that you look at all the pieces that are out there and you make decisions. Does it fit with your team or doesn’t it fit maybe your Plan A doesn’t go according to plan, and you go to something else.”
• As expected, Girardi said Jesus Montero will have to earn a job in spring training. “He’s going to have to earn the job as a catcher,” Girardi said. The DH spot is taken, but the Yankees are currently prepared to give their top prospect a long and legitimate look in spring training. He’s never caught a 162-game schedule, but Girardi said he doesn’t think of Montero as being limited in the number of games he’ll catch. He’ll get breaks like any catcher, but he won’t go into the season with a planned limit.
• Jorge Posada was told to prepare himself as a catcher, but with the understanding that the bulk of his time will likely come at DH. “He understands,” Girardi said. “But I still think that he wants to catch. I mean, that is his first love, that is his first passion. To me this gives him a chance to extend his career, stay healthy, and be productive for us.”
• Girardi said it’s not time to commit to any sort of lineup for next season. Asked specifically about Derek Jeter’s spot in the order, Girardi said: “I think you have to evaluate your team on a daily basis, weekly basis, and monthly basis as time goes on. The one thing he did do is he hit in September for us. After we made that change with him, he hit much better. We’ll continue to work on those things.”
• Ideally, how much rest for Alex Rodriguez? Girardi said it depends on how Rodriguez feels in spring training, but as a general rule, “You try not to play him more than seven or eight days in a row,” Girardi said. “Will your day off be a DH day? Possible. Or a DH day here or maybe a DH two days later.”
• Speaking of resting Rodriguez, Girardi said the Yankees have looked into backup infield options, but he stressed that the Yankees like Ramiro Pena and/or Eduardo Nunez in that spot. He called it “an important role.” Getting someone externally may depend on “what we have left financially to sign.”
• For the eighth inning, Girardi said he believes Joba Chamberlain and Dave Robertson can handle the job. “I really believe the talent is there to do it,” he said. “And these guys will probably get the opportunity to do it. But you have to prove you can do it.” Much of Chamberlain’s struggles, Girardi said, came from his inconsistent slider.
• Although the Yankees project Ivan Nova as a starter, Girardi said he wouldn’t rule out Nova breaking in as a reliever. A personal observation: With Alfredo Aceves and Dustin Moseley gone, the Yankees don’t currently have many long relief options beyond Sergio Mitre.
• The Yankees have a lot of almost-ready, upper-level pitching talent (Brackman, Noesi, Betances, Banuelos, Phelps, etc.), and the team has had success in the past converting those sort of pitchers into short-term, late-inning relievers. Girardi said that’s not something the Yankees will consider directly out of spring training, but it’s possible by mid-summer. “Not immediately,” Girardi said. “Because most of them haven’t had a season or year of Triple-A, or two or three months of Triple-A. But we have been known to. A lot of clubs believe it’s easier to break a guy into the bullpen first and move him into the starting rotation as a young pitcher. If we feel they can help us in the bullpen say middle of the summer, then we’d make that switch.”
• If Nova were to make the Yankees rotation out of spring training, there would be no innings limit on him. Girardi was happy to say that.
• The Yankees have admitted to being in the market for a second left-handed reliever. “But when we go to New York, we’re going to take the 12 best pitchers no matter who they are,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photos
Cliff Lee negotiations moving s l o w l y • 12.07.10
Brian Cashman said he’s in no position to dictate the pace in his negotiations with Cliff Lee, but he’s ready to take the next step if Lee’s ready for an offer.
“If they’re willing to take one and they’re ready to close something out, I’m willing to get serious,” Cashman said. “We’re just waiting for them to get to that position.”
This comes on a rather bizarre day in the ongoing Lee saga. Some reports suggest the Washington Nationals are heavily involved. Jon Heyman is hearing two teams are willing to offer seven years, but there’s no indication of who those teams might be.
“I know what we are willing to do,” Cashman said. “I know how far we’re willing to go. We’d love to add Cliff Lee to the Yankee rotation. There’s no doubt about that. He knows that. I’ve got a great working relationship with the agent. The player has, I think, good ties to some of the players on this team. At the end of the day, it’s business. It’s all business. He’s going to weigh the opportunities presented to him and the offer presented to him and the locales presented to him – whatever they are – and measure it against whatever we’re willing to do. He’ll make a call. He’ll make a decision here at some point. We just have to respect the process, respect the player and his family and their intent and interest.”
Joe Girardi today acknowledged the obvious: That there is no Lee substitute on the market. If the Yankees don’t get Lee, and still want to add a front-line pitcher, they’ll have to make a trade. Of course, Cashman is already talking about alternatives, and keeping an eye on the “large net” he’s cast throughout baseball.
“Pitching is the key to the kingdom,” Cashman said. “If we can improve upon the pitching, great. Obviously we’ve been in the situation (in the past) where we’ve decided we can’t, so you ramp up the offense even more so. I’ve been there and done that, and I’m not afraid to do that again. I like what we have. Can I improve upon it? I think there are possibilities there. First preference, we go to the pitching side, but after a while, you might change your focus a little bit. That’s why I’ve got a large net cast. I’ll be able to adjust rather quickly if we choose to do so.”
Associated Press photo
Time to hit the road. I have a full rental car, as the Yankees beat is making its way across the state to Tampa. You might not expect it, but we’re actually the envy of the Winter Meetings.
We get to escape the lobby for a few hours. Everyone else is stuck here.
Meanwhile, the Orlando morning buzz is quickly becoming an afternoon non-story. There are now multiple reports that the Nationals are not in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. In this age of Twitter and 10-minute news cycles, this sort of thing is inevitable. Reporters hear something, and they report it. When it’s shot down, they report that too. This is the nature of the beast.
Day 2 begins in Orlando • 12.07.10
This could very well be the day Derek Jeter officially re-signs with the Yankees. If that happens, it could easily overshadow anything else that happens with the team down in here in Florida.
Then again, there’s always Cliff Lee.
Jeter is the Yankees icon, but Lee is their primary offseason target and Ken Rosenthal reported last night that there are some who expect Lee to receive a seven-year offer. The Yankees don’t seem likely to offer that many years to a 32-year-old.
It’s easy to look at Jayson Werth’s seven-year deal and believe that creates precedent for Lee, but Werth is a year younger and a position player. Cashman made it clear yesterday that Werth’s deal will have no impact on his offer to Lee.
“I know what and where we’re willing to go,” Cashman said. “It’s not going to impact us.”
Back to the Magic Kingdom • 12.05.10
As much as I’d love to see Brian Cashman put on an elf costume and climb down a building in Connecticut, I’m instead making my way to Orlando for this week’s Winter Meetings. That means one thing: Cliff Lee.
Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera are done, and the Yankees focus will shift to the rotation, which is the team’s most glaring need. Of course, the Yankees aren’t the only team interested in Lee. The Rangers are also going to make a push, and the Dallas Morning News took a look at the backup options should Lee sign elsewhere.
They’re basically the same for the Rangers as they are for the Yankees.
1. Trade the farm for someone like Zack Greinke.
2. Hope for a remarkable resurgence from someone like Brandon Webb or Chien-Ming Wang.
3. Try to catch lightning in a bottle with an internal candidate. I’m looking at you Ivan Nova.
Obviously, the preference is Lee. My guess is you’ll hear his name a lot this week.
Associated Press photo
Good stuff today from a very good writer and reporter. Jack Curry has some of the details of yesterday’s meeting between Derek Jeter and the Yankees brass, writing that the meeting was requested by Jeter, and the tone was “respectful and polite.”
Although Jeter and the Yankees didn’t come close to an agreement on Tuesday, people who have been briefed on the discussion said it was a vital development in the negotiations.
Given the tone of the previous week, simply getting in the same room and saying things that needed to be said feels like a significant step. Maybe not one that moved the two sides any closer, but certainly a step that had to be made before anything could move forward.
A few links and notes from the day…
• If the Yankees increased their offer to Derek Jeter, it likely wasn’t by much. Jon Heyman says close to $50 million over three years.
• The Rangers met again with Cliff Lee, and Ian Kinsler is trying to convince the lefty to stay in Texas.
• Jayson Stark talked to two executives who still expect Lee to sign with the Yankees. He also looks into the pitching market beyond Lee.
• Not sure how I messed up the post this afternoon — tried to post around 2, and the post itself went to 8:44 — but Cashman released a statement about his plan to rappel down a building this weekend:
“I’m a Stamford guy, and it’s an honor to participate in such a special Holiday family event for the community,” Cashman said. “‘Heights and Lights’ is designed to draw the people of Stamford and its surrounding neighborhoods together, drum up interest in its downtown businesses and celebrate the holiday season.
“I’ve been leaving milk and cookies for Santa for some time now, but this year I wanted to take a more active role in assisting him. As an elf, you have to be willing to build toys, wrap presents, prepare reindeer for flight, or rappel off buildings for Santa. I take my role as an elf seriously because there are a lot of children out there counting on him.”
Associated Press photo