Cliff Lee's Price Keeps Going Up

Numerous events conspire to make Yankees need Lee even more

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01: Cliff Lee #33 of the Texas Rangers stands on the mound with his head down as Cody Ross #13 of the San Francisco Giants stands on third base in Game Five of the 2010 MLB World Series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on November 1, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cliff Lee

    He didn't pitch a game, sign a contract or get a particularly good Chanukah present (not that we know of, anyway, but it was still a good weekend for Cliff Lee.

    The baseball season kicked into overdrive with the start of the winter meetings and just about everything that's happened thus far has made it likely that Lee will wind up making even more money than anyone thought a week ago. First there was Jayson Werth signing an unbelievable and unexpected seven-year, $126 million contract with the Nationals as a free agent to set the bar incredibly high for all other players on the open market this offseason.

    Then came the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox. He'll also be getting a mega-deal, although that's only half of the reason why it was good for Lee. The better part was that the Red Sox just got better, something that always forces the Yankees to react one way or the other. Right now, the obvious reaction is to give Lee whatever he wants in terms of money and/or years to assure that he's trying to strike out Gonzalez in a few of the 18 games against the Red Sox next season.

    Not all the good news came out of Orlando. Monday brought a Bob Klapisch report that Andy Pettitte has decided to retire, making it even more necessary that the Yankees come back with a trophy buck during hunting season. That report was contradicted by Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports' Hardball Talk a short time later, but the underlying message -- there will be a day when Andy P is no longer slinging the ball -- remains the same and makes it essential that the Yankees solidify their rotation.

    Last, but not least, is a report from Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports that says Lee will return to Texas if the Rangers offer him a sixth year. That's the kind of leak that screams of an attempt to get the Yankees to throw more into the pot, and it comes with impeccable timing because how can they really resist the urge to go all in at this point?

    They just gave Derek Jeter $17 million for next season and he's not nearly as important as Lee would be to their chances of winning it all in 2011. That's true even if Jeter has a total rebound next year because you'll likely recall that it was bum pitching, not Jeter's poor season, that left the Yankees as bridesmaids in October.

    Brian Cashman has already made this a merry Christmas by dressing like an elf, rappelling down a building and vanquishing the Red Sox Grinch. Checkk out the video here, because it is just as entertaining as you hoped it would be, and then get back to asking Santa to deliver the lefty you've been dreaming about to make it the best holiday of all time.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City and is a contributor to FanHouse.com and ProFootballTalk.com in addition to his duties for NBCNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.