How hungry are the New York Yankees to sign Cliff Lee?
Brian Cashman couldn't have been more vivid in his description after finally making an offer Wednesday to the prized free-agent pitcher, a deal worth between $137 million and $140 million US for six seasons. Every other possible big move by New York must wait until the 32-year-old left-hander decides.
"Hannibal Lecter in a straitjacket right now, waiting on this Cliff Lee thing," the Yankees general manager said. "It's kind of restricting my movements a little bit."
While Cashman didn't go into details, a person familiar with the offer said it was a six-year deal valued at more than Johan Santana's contract with the New York Mets, which is for $137.5 million, and as much as $140 million. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the proposal was not made public.
Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, left the winter meetings and headed to Arkansas to meet with his client after receiving the offer from the Yankees. New York manager Joe Girardi even called Lee "the prize of this winter."
Cashman wouldn't discuss his dinner meeting with Carl Crawford on Tuesday night — other than to say he had steak — and wouldn't say whether the Yankees could sign both Lee and the All-Star outfielder. That possibility became moot Wednesday night when Crawford reached a preliminary agreement on a $142 million, seven-year contract with the Boston Red Sox.
Admitting he was tired, Cashman playfully discussed his job as GM of baseball's highest-revenue franchise and thanked his bosses for giving permission to make the offer to Lee.
"I know my title is general manager, but I consider myself the director of spending of the New York Yankees. I don't make it. I spend it," Cashman said. "We've made an offer that's not easy to be making and I appreciate the fact that the Steinbrenners are allowing us to make an offer to this degree. … It's a big commitment on behalf of the fan base, and we'll see what happens. I think we've done all we can do from meeting to talking to showing."
New York almost acquired Lee from Seattle in July before he was dealt to Texas. Lee then helped the Rangers beat the Yankees in the AL championship series, putting Texas in the World Series for the first time.
"He's a guy that wins. He's a guy that gives you innings. He's a guy that knows how to pitch on the big stage," Girardi said. "Everything that you'd want, and a guy that you would ask to help you win another championship. This is a guy that has great command, never beats himself, he holds runners, has a mixture of four pitches that he can use at my time. He's the complete package."
Cashman met Lee in Arkansas on Nov. 10 but waited to make an offer until the pitcher was closer to decision-making mode.
Texas hopes to re-sign Lee, pointing out how close the team is to the pitcher's home in Arkansas. Lee is close to New York ace CC Sabathia, his former Cleveland teammate, and the Yankees hope that helps them in a thus-far deliberate process.
Washington also is involved and perhaps other teams. There have been unconfirmed rumors that at least one club and possibly more are offering a seven-year contract.
"He's got all the information he needs from us. I assume he's got the same from anybody else who's got an oar in the water here," Cashman said. "They've gone through Cleveland and they've gone through Philly and they've gone through Seattle and they've gone through Texas for the right to free agency. They're here. So they want to make the right decision."