Yankees, Rangers chase Cliff Lee

Updated: December 7, 2010, 11:56 AM ET
By Andrew Marchand and Richard Durrett | ESPN.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The agent for Cliff Lee feels the free-agent market is playing out very well for his client, with Jayson Werth's contract Exhibit A.

"It's good to be Cliff Lee," Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, said at the Swan and Dolphin Hotel as he shuttled off between meetings with teams.

Braunecker, speaking early Monday, said he planned to soon meet with New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and Texas Rangers GM Jon Daniels, as well as other interested teams.

"There are a lot of teams that need pitching," Braunecker said before later adding: "You're talking about the best player on the market."

Cashman said he met with Braunecker in his suite later Monday afternoon.

"I'm going to meet with him as much as I can," Cashman said.

ESPN's Buster Olney reported that money was not discussed, nor were parameters put forth. Daniels also had a meeting with Braunecker, according to an official with knowledge of the talks.

"We're still advancing the process," Braunecker said.

Said Cashman: "The atmosphere is ripe to push through some things so we'll see if there is anything here we can push through."

Cashman may be leaving the winter meetings for a few hours on Tuesday, because the Yankees may have a news conference to announce the re-signing of Derek Jeter. The news conference would take place in the Yankees' spring training home in Tampa, which is a little more than an hour from Orlando.

Braunecker thought Werth's $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals indicated how fertile the market will be, but that the contract won't impact Lee.

"We have never tied ourselves to Jayson Werth or really anything else, so we will see," Braunecker said.

Braunecker didn't think that the Werth contract was that outlandish.

"To me, that is what Jason Werth should have gotten," Braunecker said. "He is a better player than Matt Holliday."

Holliday received $120 million over seven seasons from the St. Louis Cardinals last year.

According to Cashman, the Werth deal will have no impact on how the Yankees plan to approach Lee's contract.

"I know what and where we are willing to go," Cashman said. "It is not going to impact us."

The Yankees and the Rangers are considered the favorites for Lee. Both are expected to put nine-figure offers in front of Braunecker soon.

Lee has already proved he can pitch in Texas. Braunecker doesn't think there should be any concern about if he could be a "New York-type" guy.

"Cliff has clearly demonstrated he can pitch in any market," Braunecker said.

Braunecker indicated there were other teams besides the Yankees and Rangers in on the left-hander, but he didn't name the clubs.

"Typically, this is where things start to unfold," Braunecker said. "Traditionally, you get a whole lot more done sitting in front of people than over a phone."

As for Lee, Cashman has continually said that his No. 1 need is pitching. Next year's free-agent market doesn't promise any staff aces, and there hasn't been talk of a top starter becoming available via trade, so Cashman is expected to bid very high for Lee. Cashman traveled to Little Rock, Ark., to meet with Lee last month.

Cashman also said that he still has not heard if Andy Pettitte will retire or not. He mentioned again that Pettitte told him that he was leaning toward retirement. This was the first time that Pettitte had ever done that. However, there is still a feeling he may change his mind.

"My whole day has been on a number of different players," Cashman said. "Both from the club's perspective tradewise or free agents on various positions and some you probably wouldn't think were on our radar."

Cashman declined to say if he had met with the agent for Carl Crawford.

New York remains interested in re-signing Kerry Wood as a setup man for Mariano Rivera, who is in the process of finalizing a $30 million, two-year deal. But Cashman said Wood would sign elsewhere if another team wants him as a closer.

Cashman is not looking for any batters to fill the designated hitter spot, intending Jorge Posada to switch there from catcher.

"He's our DH," he said. "That's what he is -- unless he plays himself off of it."

Lee, 32, should be able to pick up at least a five-year deal and with his leverage he may be able to approach CC Sabathia's seven-year, $161 million contract.

The Rangers have met with Lee, his wife, Kristen, and Braunecker in Little Rock twice in the past few weeks in an effort to lure the ace back to Texas. The club hopes that his four-month stay with the Rangers coupled with the team's success and the club's proximity to his Arkansas home can make a difference in the negotiations.

Texas has made it clear that Lee is its top choice to lead the rotation, but the Rangers are also interested in Royals starter Zack Greinke. That interest could pick up should the Yankees sign Lee. The Yankees don't have any obvious pitching fallback plan and could more aggressively pursue outfielder Carl Crawford if they don't get Lee.

Braunecker said that Lee is hunting this week and that he updates his client from time to time.

"I let him know when I have something substantive," Braunecker said. "Otherwise, he's on his deer-hunting excursion."

Richard Durrett covers the Rangers for ESPNDallas.com. Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Andrew Marchand is a senior writer for ESPNNewYork. He also regularly contributes to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, ESPNews, ESPN New York 98.7 FM and ESPN Radio. He joined ESPN in 2007 after nine years at the New York Post. Follow Andrew on Twitter »

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