Yankees visiting Lee in Arkansas today


The Yankees are learning from past successes. Two winters ago the team made a splash on the first day of free agency, offering CC Sabathia the largest contract ever for a pitcher. Yet for the next three or four weeks we heard next to nothing. Sabathia and his agent acknowledged the offer, but after that they played the silent game. The two parties met on the eve of the Winter Meetings, but it didn’t appear to further the Yankees’ cause. A few days later, Sabathia left Las Vegas and returned home.

The next day or so was filled with uncertainty. Did Sabathia’s departure mean that he wasn’t interested in pitching for the Yankees? Had another team even made an offer? There was actually a report that Sabathia had rejected the Yankees offer upon leaving Vegas. Little did we know what was going on behind the scenes. Sabathia went home so he could discuss the situation with his wife. That led to the infamous phone call in which Sabathia requested that Cashman come to Vallejo and meet the family. A few hours later they were putting together a seven-year, $161 million contract.

Today it appears the Yankees will try something similar. MLB Trade Rumors reports that the Yankees are flying to Arkansas for a face-to-face meeting with Cliff Lee. While there’s little chance that Cashman walks away with a signed contract, I have to think this bodes well for the team’s chances.

Money played the biggest role in Sabathia’s decision. It plays an enormous role in nearly every free agent decision. Players know that they’re getting ready for their one big pay day, and they want to make the most out of it. The Yankees, as we know, do not take kindly to getting outbid for a player they desire. We saw this as well two winters ago, when the Braves aggressively pursued A.J. Burnett. The bidding increased until the Yankees finally hit that $82.5 million mark. Contract signed. We saw it again a few weeks later, when the Yankees outbid the Red Sox for Mark Teixeira. I doubt they’ll let another team offer Lee more money.

What the Yankees should accomplish with this trip is what they accomplished by flying to Vallejo in 2008. That is, the purpose is to make Lee know that he’s the Yankees’ guy. After signing his contract, Sabathia said that what swayed him was his central role in the Yankees’ plans. Once Cashman revealed that they didn’t trade for Johan Santana because they wanted CC instead, the big man said he felt wanted. Again, money certainly played a bigger role. But there are certainly other factors to consider, and the feeling of being wanted — being needed, even — plays a part in that.

With Lee, the Yanks probably don’t have to do much work. They did, after all, offer up their best prospect for a half season of Lee. That should signal right there how much they wanted him. And now, presumably, Cashman will give Lee the Sabathia pitch. They wanted him then, and they want him now; they plan to pair him with CC for a top that can match with anyone else’s. There are plenty of other points to make, and I trust that Cashman will hit on all of them. Why else would he make such a personal visit?

Remember, though, that these types of visits are fairly routine at this time of year. In 2008 the Yankees paid a similar visit to Mark Teixeira and nothing came of it for another month or so. The Red Sox then tried a similar tactic and were rebuffed — if you’ll remember, at the time John Henry talked about how the two sides just weren’t going to fit. In a similar way, I don’t expect Lee to sign a contract any sooner than we previously expected. But I do appreciate Cashman’s approach to the matter. They want Lee, and they want to make it as clear as possible. That sounds like a plan.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. Hughesus Christo says:
    (NSFW? But I’m at work…)

    • Not Tank the Frank says:

      Fuck! This is like, the coolest song I ever heard in my whole life. Fuck all of you who said I wouldn’t make it; said I was a loser; said I was a no one; said I was a FUCKIN psycho! Look at me now! All up in the interwebs. World wide!

  2. larryf says:

    Cashman playing the Billy Crystal role in City Slickers as he shoots a 12 point buck hunting with Cliff-while holding his coffee grinder.

  3. TopChuckie says:

    Do you think the Yanks want to know which way they are going this off season as soon as possible, and therefore could present an ultimatum at some point?

    I’m sure they don’t want to be jerked around and used to create a bidding war, while other FA’s are signing, then have Lee stay with Texas and the Yanks wind up empty handed. If they are confident Andy is coming back and they are content to fill the 4/5 spot from within as Plan B, then they can wait as long as necessary, but if Kuroda or Westbrook, etc. is really Plan B, then they need an answer.

    They know they are making the best offer, so I might be willing to say take it or leave it. Here it is, you think you can do better than that? Good luck to you.

    • Andrew says:

      Free agents like Westbrook and Kuroda, the second-tier options as SPs, usually wait for the big ticket items to be off the shelves before agreeing to contracts. From the players’ perspectives, if someone like Westbrook is to sign with the Cardinals right now it removes the possibility of the Yankees getting involved in bidding for his services should they miss on Lee.

      So it’s probably not necessary to force Lee’s hand out of fear of missing out completely on the FA starting pitchers. Ultimatums are dicey when dealing with the egos and delicate dances involved with signing FAs.

      • Jay says:

        Plus, we think an ultimatum is necessary because we are fans and lok at it from that approach. In actuality, Cliff Lee needs to decide where he wants to live, if his wife is going to move, where the schools are best, what role his extended family might play, etc… The Yankees won’t rush a decision because it’s bigger then just a matter of winning. It’s a real life decision, not unlike when you may take a job with a great deal of travel, or relocation. Not to say the Yankees might not force an answer come January if he’s unsigned, but to rush him could make him uncomfortable.

    • Do you think the Yanks want to know which way they are going this off season as soon as possible, and therefore could present an ultimatum at some point?

      No. We can afford to wait; Lee’s the only guy we’re really all that interested in anyway.

    • Sayid J. says:

      But then, Texas, knowing that the Yankees have presented their final offer, know that they can sign Lee only by topping the Yankees offer by a few million dollars. The assumption that the Yankees will ultimately present the best offer may be true, but we can’t assume they will present the best offer at first, or that they will present the best offer at all.

      • Well, it’s not like Texas or the Yankees will offer a certain amount of money and Lee will accept it just because he feels it’s the highest. If the Yankees offer 5/125 you can bet Lee’s agent will go to Texas and give them a chance to offer more. It’ll only stop when someone cries uncle and says “This is our final offer”

        • Sayid J. says:

          Well that was the point of my response. If the Yankees said “this is our final offer, take it or leave it” as Chuckie proposed, then the Rangers could just top it and walk away with Cliff Lee.

          • Sure, that’s possible. But if it came down to that, then the Rangers are paying an incredible amount of money to keep Lee. If that happens, so be it.

            • king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

              i have to admit, i’m not afraid of our chances against the Rangers next year with them keeping Lee at 7/230 or some amazing crap like that.

              i guess…i’m not actually afraid of any team, and i pretty much think the Yankees, as we expect them to roll out in another 100 days, to be next year’s WS Champs…

          • TopChuckie says:

            There is precedence, they did it with ARod, but then he came crawling back and the Yanks crumbled.

            I just don’t like being used or unappreciated when I already know I’m the best you’re gonna get, though it still behooves the Yanks to be used to make other teams extend themselves. What I’m saying is, what the Yanks have to offer is evident, the most money, the best chance to win, they shouldn’t lower themselves to begging him to come play for them, or allow him to extort them.

            At the very least I’d say, “Go get your best offer from Texas then come see us. We will either tell you they made you a great offer, you should take it, or we will tell you we’ll top it and give you this. But when we do, that will be it, you decide right then and there to sign or not.”

            As far as a lot of life decisions to make, he’s a big boy and knew this day was coming when he told the Phillies not to get any ideas about an extension, he should know what his priorities are already.

        • OldYanksFan says:

          If the Yankees offer 5/110m, one time, take or leave it, here’s what Texas will offer:
          “Here’s our address. Please write often”

          I’m not sure Texas can afford to wrap even $20m into 1 player. Even if they expand their 2010 payroll of $65m to $80, Lee would still represent 25% of their Total payroll.

          In 2002 and 2003, with ARod, their payroll was over $100m, with one player taking up 25% of that. How’d that work out? What happened to the team? What happened to that one player?

      • Clay Bellinger says:

        I highly doubt that Texas will be able to offer more money than whatever the Yanks “final” offer will be anyway.

        • Mister Delaware says:

          $3B television deal says they could if they wanted to.

          • Clay Bellinger says:

            Can they? The Yanks have a pretty big TV deal of their own.

            Even with the new TV deal, the Yanks still have a the obvious advantage in financial power. Bottom line is if the Yanks truly want him, they’ll offer more than anyone else can and Lee will have to leave money on the table not to be a Yankee.

            • Sayid J. says:

              But Texas needs Lee more than the Yankees do. Texas could very well offer more than the Yankees. Yes, it’s likely that the Yankees will ultimately present the largest offer, but it is not a foregone conclusion.

              • Clay Bellinger says:

                True. Texas “needs” him more, but it’s rare that the Yanks are outbid for a player that they really want badly. Lee is the centerpiece of their plan and there doesn’t seem to be a great plan B. He could very well decide that he doesn’t like NY and would rather not play here and then take less money to pitch elsewhere, but I think that most of the baseball world would be shocked if the Yanks were actaully outbid for him.

                • Mister Delaware says:

                  Sure. Texas may not match, and they may be right not to match, but it won’t be because they can’t.

                  • Clay Bellinger says:

                    …and if they were to match, the Yankees can in turn push the envelope even further. It doesn’t mean that it would be smart, or even the right move, but whatever Texas offers, NY “can” offer more.

          • Except that 3 billion dollars is spread out over 20 years. It’s not like they get 3 billion dollars dumped in their lap every few years. That investment has to last them until 2030!

            Do you think they’re willing to commit a full quarter or third of their payroll to one player? Don’t forget, Hamilton, Young, Feliz, Murphy, CJ Wilson… all those guys are going to want to get paid in the next few years.

            • Mister Delaware says:

              I believe I read the guaranteed annual amount is $80MM per season which means (even after backing out an high-end estimate of what their prior television deal paid) they’re gaining more in television revenue than they spent on salaries in 2010 ($55MM). They can give $30MM annually to Lee and still be well ahead of last year.

              (Of course, they won’t because teams set public budgets which are taken by fans to be “the most they can spend” right up to the point the team suddenly is able to spend more. Its a no-lose narrative. If the Twins sign Mauer for $23MM per season, its awesome that they invest in the hometown guy. If the Yankees signed him for $20MM per season, the poor Twins never had a chance. No lose. If the Rangers want to sign Lee, they can afford it.)

              • Right, but again, before Lee’s contract is up they’re either going to have to bump payroll up even higher to hold onto their young talent, or lose them and hope their farm system can fill holes until Lee’s contract expires. I’m just not sure if they’re willing to commit so much money to Lee, who despite how good he is, is on the wrong side of 30. The Yankees, with their resources, can absorb that risk easier than the Rangers can.

                • CP says:

                  If Texas could sign him to a one year $30M deal, it might make sense for them to do that. I don’t think it would make sense for them to sign him to a 5 or 6 year deal at big money.

                  • CBean says:

                    And I doubt Lee’s going to want a 1 year deal. It makes more sense for him to want a long locked in deal for a lot of money. He’s not getting any younger.

          • Chris says:

            They also have debt from buying the team, and it’s not like that TV money is only over the next 5 years.

  4. Frank says:

    Along with a bouquet of roses for Lee’s wife, Cash should bring her a “bleacher creatures” t-shirt.

  5. You have twenty-four hours to sign the contract. And, to show you that we’re serious… you have TWELVE hours to sign the contract.

  6. Yank the Frank says:

    Cash should bring CC with him and a Yankee umbrella for his wife.

  7. kendubrowski says:

    I was wondering if that is why the story that Jorge Posada will no longer be the everyday catcher
    came out right before Brian Cashman got on the airplane.
    When I read it, I thought that Brian was sending a message not just to Jorge but to let Cliff Lee know the direction the Yankees are taking.

  8. Well I hope Cashman doesn’t bring a woman with him, we all know Lee would look at her, ask how a person with a ponytail could understand baseball, call her “numb nuts” and sign with the Rangers for 5 years/80 million.

    Seriously though, Cashman seems to do really well at selling a team to go along with the boatload of money he can offer. This can only be a positive!

  9. larryf says:

    We do have another pitcher from Arkansas to use as a selling point. Think he went on the trip?

  10. Fair Weather Freddy says:

    Randy Levine put a gun to his head and Cashman assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract.

  11. vin says:

    I know visiting players is 100% Standard Operating Procedure… but I love Cashman. He is the perfect GM for this team.

  12. Jo3momz says:

    Now that Lee is considered an elite pitcher, think it will matter to him if he is THE man in a starting rotation or would it not matter if he is THE man behing THE MAN like he would be here in NY?

  13. andypettitteisastartingpitcher says:

    My understanding was that Teix’s wife wanted to come here all along because her family is here. She was a big factor in the decision. For CC, he wanted to stay in CA but when asked about his extension he said, “I built a house here, my kids go to school here, this is where I live.” Though he continues to do a lot in and for Vallejo (which desperately needs the help…so go CC!).

    I don’t know about AJ’s family and their influence.

    The other factor is winning. If you want to win, or at least have a shot at it every year, you come here. So who knows what is important to Cliff Lee and his family. We’ll find out, I suppose.

  14. andypettitteisastartingpitcher says:

    I also understand that Lee’s wife is good friends with Teix’s wife.

  15. RobC says:

    Is there a plan B after Lee?
    I heard talk on MLB XM that Josh Johnson or King Felix could be available for the right package of
    young player(s) + prospect(s)

  16. bonestock94 says:

    :cue banjo music:

  17. steve (different one) says:

    Make it rain, cash man!

  18. larryf says:

    so are they sittin’ down to some venison and squirrel stew? We need an update.

  19. Ciekawy tekst, by? mo?e to kogo¶ zainteresuje: spr??arki.

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