NEW YORK - OCTOBER 18: Cliff Lee #33 of the Texas Rangers throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in Game Three of the ALCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium on October 18, 2010 in New York, New York. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Cliff Lee
Plan B is patience.
That is straight from the horse's mouth. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman stressed patience on a conference call a mere 12 1/2 hours after learning that Cliff Lee would be taking his services elsewhere. And by all accounts, that elsewhere is Philadelphia.
Early in the free agent process, the Yankees identified Lee as their number one target, and went all in to get him. Their initial offer of 6 years for 138 million, was quickly increased when Carl Crawford signed with the rival Red Sox. Some reports had the second offer as high as 7 years and 160 million.
In the end, the money didn't matter. Sort of. The 5 year, 120 million dollar contract Lee is expected to sign is certainly nothing to sneeze at. He was admittedly stunned when Philly shipped him to Seattle last off-season, and in recent days, he expressed his desire to return to the City of Brotherly Love.
Cashman remained upbeat when discussing the Yankees 2011 rotation as it stands right now.
"CC Sabathia is ace of the rotation, in anybody's rotation." Cashman added he expects A.J. Burnett to improve upon a disastrous 2010 season, and for Phil Hughes to continue his ascent into the upper echelon of American League starters.
And if Andy Pettitte returns, that's 4 starters back from a rotation on a team that won 95 games.
But it's hard not wonder what if. This is the second time the Yankees were tantalizingly close to landing the 32 year-old left hander.
They seemingly had an agreement in place with Seattle in early July, but the Mariners pulled out when they received what they deemed a better offer from Texas. Lee proceeded to pitch the Rangers into the World Series, including a 13 strikeout gem agains the Yankees in game 3 of the ALCS. Add to that the two games Lee won in the 2009 World Series, and the Bombers certainly know what they would have been getting.
Cashman was asked about the near miss in July, and he seemed to be content with not giving up the farm for what could have amounted to a 2 1/2 month rental. But Cashman did admit that Lee, "would have looked nice in our rotation."
So now enter Plan B. Patience. The Yankees will continue to kick the tires on the remaining free agents and keep their eyes and ears open on potential trade opportunities. They will not panic and overpay for a free agent just to say they signed someone, and will not give up valuable trade assets just to say they traded for someone.
But it could be worse, they could be the Mets and be dealing with the prospect of facing Lee for the next 5 seasons.