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Cliff-hanger: Yankees Finally Make Offer To Lee

By RONALD BLUM AP Sports Writer
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Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) - 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. 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.”

Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, left the winter meetings and headed to Arkansas to meet with his client after receiving an offer 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.

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 publicly unspecified 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 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.”

The Los Angeles Angels have been seen as the favorite to land Crawford. Cashman said he wouldn’t press Lee for a decision to enable the Yankees to make a decision on the outfielder.

“This is someone that’s worth the wait, and I’ll just leave it at that,” the GM said of Lee.

Still, Crawford has impressed the Yankees while playing for AL East rival Tampa Bay.

“He’s a difference maker for any club he goes to,” Girardi said. “When he’s up, when he’s on the bases, he’s a great player. We’ve had a chance to see him a lot over the last six or seven years. And he’s a pain. That is the type of player he is. You know that any single can be a triple. It’s easy for him to score runs.”

NOTES: LHP Andy Pettitte called Cashman on Tuesday and said he hoped New York signed Lee. Cashman sounded more hopeful Pettitte will return for 2011. “If had to bet at some point, I think he’ll play, but he’s telling me right now he’s leaning the other way.” … Girardi has talked with Jorge Posada about the plan to switch him from primarily a catcher to mostly a DH. “He understands. But I still think that he wants to catch. I mean, that is his first love, that is his first passion. To me this gives him a chance to extend his career, stay healthy, and be productive for us.” … OF Brett Gardner had inflamed tissue removed from his right wrist by Dr. Melvin Rosenwasser. Gardner is expected to be ready for spring training.

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