Yankees checked in on Harden

Via Jon Paul Morosi, the Yankees are one of several teams that have checked in a free agent righty Rich Harden. Harden’s talent is obvious, but at this point it’s pretty clear that he won’t ever reach the ceiling so many projected. He’s been on the disabled list eight times in the last five seasons, dealing with everything from shoulder and elbow and hip strains to back soreness to a sore glute. Even beyond that though, Harden’s walked five guys for every nine innings pitched, and he’s an extreme fly ball guy (close to 50% over the last three years). The Yanks might be looking at a reliever, but still, pass. Just doesn’t fit.

The Clifton and Carsten comparison

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

One of the game’s preeminent left-handed starters is a free agent, and he’s very much on the Yanks’ radar. In fact, it’s been an open secret for nearly a year that the Yankees have wanted to pursue this pitcher once he hits the open market, but there are fears that another team could step in. Rumors are that he enjoys playing close to home. Rumors are that if his home town team gives him the right contract, he’d gladly take it over a similar offer from the Yankees. Rumors are he wants more years than the Yanks want to give him, and that could be the so-called dealbreaker.

It’s beginning to sound a lot like CC, isn’t it? Clifton Phifer Lee and Carsten Charles Sabathia have been good friends since their days on the Indians. While the two didn’t come up together, they were teammates from 2002 until 2008, and if Brian Cashman and the Yankees have their way, the two lefties will again don the same uniforms.

The similarities in their free agent storylines are uncannily similar, and that’s no coincidence. In each case, the Yanks made it known that they wanted the pitcher in question, and in each case, the player’s side is playing it coy. Ultimately, it will come down to the dollars. If the Yankees overwhelm every other offer, as they have the resources to do, Lee will be in the Bronx come April. The pressure from the Players Union as well as the allure of the dollars is too strong to overcome whatever ties Lee built up over just three months in Texas.

But as the back of my mind is a question about the Lee and Sabathia sagas: Do we want them to end the same way? Do we truly want Lee to sign a six- or possibly seven-year mega-deal for Sabathia bucks?

For starters, a few key years separate Sabathia from Lee. When CC signed with the Yanks, he had just finished his age 27 season. It was the ideal time for him to hit free agency, and he signed a contract that could cover up through and including his age 34 season. Lee, on the other hand, just threw his age 31 season. A six-year deal would lock him up through his age 37 season and a seven-year deal through age 38. In baseball years, that’s a significant difference.

In Newsday today, Ken Davidoff opines on the Yanks’ choice. It’s quite the conundrum, he says:

Common sense tells you that the Yankees, who appear increasingly desperate to sign the lefthander, will be the team to step up to six. In doing so, they’ll ensure that Lee turns away the Rangers, for whom he enjoyed playing so much.

And baseball wisdom tells you that the Yankees, by doing so, again would be sacrificing long-term viability for the sake of a short-term gain. It’s a practice they’ve exhibited too often, even since Brian Cashman took full control of the baseball operations after the 2005 season.

On the one hand, the Yanks have been willing to let players go. Hideki Matsui and Johnny Damon were both dispatched from New York amidst fan outcry, but the team didn’t suffer without them. On the other hand, though, the Yankees are saddled with A-Rod‘s monster contract, with A.J. Burnett‘s right arm, with three or four years of 37-and-counting Derek Jeter at 27-and-counting dollars. The team is paying more and more now to win later without focusing too much on the downside of that strategy.

One day, it’ll come back to bite the Yanks. Maybe in 2013 or 2014, we’ll suffer through a mediocre year of aging players who must play out the final few years of their careers and mega-contracts. Maybe we’ll regret this spending spree. Will another World Series make it all OK? That, said Davidoff, is “tomorrow’s problem.” Today, we worry about what it will take to land Lee, misgivings and all.

The RAB Radio Show: December 6, 2010

RAB is live at the Winter Meetings, and we’re reporting on an active Day 1. There aren’t many transactions going down for the Yanks, but their division rivals have changed things up a bit. Mike and I talk about Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, Shaun Marcum from the Jays to the Brewers, and Mark Reynolds to the Orioles.

Is Andy Pettitte retiring? We don’t know yet, but Brian Cashman doesn’t sound optimistic. What would Pettitte’s retirement mean for the Yankees’ winter plans?

Of course we’re going to talk about Cliff Lee. His agent has been making the rounds during the meetings. Basically, anything you hear about the situation is an attempt to get the most possible money. We should see something develop in the next few days.

Plus, bits on Jorge, Kerry Wood, and more.

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Will it take seven to get Lee?

Now that the free agent market has settled around the Jayson Werth signing, the Cliff Lee market is taking shape. The Yankees, of course, remain prime players for the lefty’s services, but the Rangers and Nationals seem heavily involved in the bidding as well. As the first day of the Winter Meetings draws to a close, let’s round up the rumors.

According to Ken Rosenthal’s sources, Lee will receive a seven-year off from some Major League club. Joel Sherman offers a follow-up: The Yanks have “internally said seven years is the dealbreaker with Lee”. The club “would go to six, perhaps, to finish off a deal,” but they are hesitant to sign a pitcher who is currently 32 to a seven-year deal. I can’t say I blame them, but from what we’ve heard, the Rangers are willing to go only to four or maybe five. Perhaps the Nationals will swoop in and steal Lee away.

Yanks eyeing Wood for the right price

Kerry Wood’s name hasn’t come up too often this winter. The Yanks’ midseason acquisition pitched great for the Bombers in 24 games. He went 2-0 with a 0.69 ERA (and a still-impressive 3.39 FIP) in 26 innings. He struck out 31 and walked just 18, and most assumed that, since Wood wanted to close and wanted closer money, he wouldn’t be back with the Yanks.

This evening, we learn that the Yanks talked to Wood’s people today. The team, says Hoch, would love to have Wood return, but GM Brian Cashman said any offer from the Yanks “won’t compete with closer money.” If the market for Wood shrivels up, a welcome return to the Bronx for this potent bullpen arm could be in order.

Cashman: Posada’s our DH

Via LoHud, Brian Cashman told reporters this afternoon that Jorge Posada was in fact slated to be the team’s regular designated hitter next season. “He’s our DH,” said Cashman. “That’s what he is, unless he plays himself off it.” Harsh, but it’s what’s best for the team. Looks like Jesus Montero is going to get a chance to sink or swing next season.

Cashman (and maybe Levine) met with Cliff Lee’s agent

Brian Cashman confirmed that he met with Darek Braunecker about his client Cliff Lee today, adding that he’s “going to meet with [Braunecker] as much as I can.” Team president Randy Levine is believe to have attended the meeting as well. When Levine gets involved, that means things are about to get serious, though no money was talked about this meeting. The Rangers, meanwhile, were planning to offer Lee just four guaranteed years, a far cry from the six that it will likely take to get him signed. That doesn’t mean they won’t increase their offer, but I take it as a good sign for the Yankees if Texas was only willing to start the bidding that low.