Yanks hunker down, meet with Lee's agent
GM Cashman, president Levine start to intensify pitch for lefty
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Comfort was on the Yankees' minds as they settled in for what could be a long week of negotiations, tucked into a suite high above the site of baseball's Winter Meetings.
So when Brian Cashman met with the agent for Cliff Lee on Monday, he was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and flip-flops, trying to keep these sessions at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort low-key.
"I like being comfortable, especially when you're sequestered 24/7," the Yankees' general manager said.
While formal attire has been deemed optional, sunlight might prove scarce for the Yankees' contingent this week. Already about to announce new deals for Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, the Bronx Bombers are now intensifying their sales pitch for Lee.
With the Rangers lining up a meeting for Monday evening, agent Darek Braunecker sat face-to-face in the room with the Yankees, who have made no secret of their desire to fit the ace for pinstripes.
Team president Randy Levine also attended the meeting with Braunecker, which is only the beginning of this week's dialogue with Lee's camp. Cashman had volunteered for return visits to Lee's Arkansas home, and now he is making sure to knock on Braunecker's door.
"While we're in the same area, I'm going to meet with them as much as I possibly can," Cashman said.
Be it with New York, Texas or elsewhere, Lee's forthcoming deal could approach the $23 million per season that the Yankees are paying CC Sabathia, especially since there are no comparable hurlers on the free-agent front.
"It's good to be Cliff Lee," Braunecker said, laughing.
Braunecker's job here is relatively simple -- hear some big-dollar figures bandied about and perhaps make a choice soon. So Lee certainly won't be sweating the particulars as these negotiations get rolling.
"I just keep him informed. That's the extent of it," Braunecker said. "When there's something substantive, I report back to him. Otherwise, he's on a deer hunting excursion right now. He's probably having a lot more fun doing that."
In addition to their chase of Lee, Cashman said the Yankees have expressed interest in "a number of different players" via trade proposals and the free-agent market, some of which he cryptically hinted could be surprising.
The Yankees were linked to catcher Russell Martin last week, reportedly dangling Francisco Cervelli to the Dodgers before the deal fell apart amid concerns about Martin's health. Now a free agent, Martin has also drawn interest elsewhere.
Cashman said the Yankees continue to project Jorge Posada as the designated hitter beginning in 2011, with the catching duties to be settled amongst Jesus Montero, Cervelli and Austin Romine. But Cashman's dabble with the Dodgers proved he is open to other options.
"I think we have the catching answers from within, but it doesn't mean that you don't make sure that you explore any potential opportunities that are available at the same time," Cashman said.
The Yankees also spoke on Monday to the representatives for right-hander Kerry Wood, who had a 0.69 ERA in 24 relief appearances for New York after being acquired in a July 31 trade.
While the Yankees would like him to return, that performance might open Wood up to offers to serve as a closer elsewhere, in which case Wood will probably be moving on.
"If he does [get closing offers], obviously he won't pitch here, because I won't compete with closer money," Cashman said.
Braunecker also represents right-hander Dustin Moseley, who was discussed after being non-tendered by the Yankees last week. The Yankees wanted to avoid arbitration, but it is possible they could still wind up re-signing Moseley.
Cashman also said the Yankees are interested in signing right-hander Alfredo Aceves to a Minor League contract, if Aceves is open to returning. The hurler missed most of 2010 due to injuries and suffered a fractured collarbone in a bicycling accident.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are moving on without a certain answer from left-hander Andy Pettitte, who told Cashman at the end of the postseason that he was leaning toward retirement. Cashman said he spoke to agent Randy Hendricks within the last week to 10 days and was informed that nothing has changed.
"I move forward like I've done the last few winters. This is what Andy does," Cashman said. "He goes home and deeply thinks about what's the next best step for him and his family. He'll come to some sort of decision on that."
One thing is certain: The Yankees seem to know what they can work with. Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said that the Yankees are projecting to head into 2011 with a payroll similar to the Major League-high $206.3 million figure from this year.
While in years past George M. Steinbrenner might have authorized the Yankees to spend even more for a player he deemed necessary -- Carl Crawford, perhaps? -- Cashman said the budgets have proven tighter with his sons overseeing the budget.
"Unfortunately, sometimes people don't hear that -- the most important ones, the ones you're negotiating with," Cashman said. "Until they find out it's too late."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.