Yanks hope to see Lee at end of the tunnel

Yanks hope to see Lee at end of the tunnel

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Yankees will remember these Winter Meetings as the time when they stopped the clocks for Cliff Lee.

After general manager Brian Cashman spent his first two days at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort casting "a wide net" across the Major League landscape, he exited on Thursday with only one pursuit on the radar.

Sending agent Darek Braunecker back to Lee's Arkansas home with a significant offer from the Yankees -- originally six years and $140 million, then sweetened to a seventh year -- Cashman kicked his shoes off and settled in to wait for the response.

"I'm a little like Hannibal Lecter in the straitjacket right now, waiting on this Cliff Lee thing," Cashman said. "It's kind of restricting my movements a little bit."

But Cashman is handcuffed by choice, because as he said, Lee is a pitcher worth waiting for. All other business has ceased for the club's brass, as they cross their fingers that Lee will accept the team's offer and wear pinstripes through the 2017 season.

"I see [Lee] as important to us, I do," manager Joe Girardi said. "It's a rotation that right now you look at it -- not knowing what Andy [Pettitte]'s going to do, possibly adding Ivan Nova to the rotation and having Phil Hughes -- it's a pretty young rotation, with CC [Sabathia] at the top of it, so I think he's pretty important."

It was a week that had other interests as well. There was a Tuesday field trip to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., where Derek Jeter thanked management for his new contract -- while also expressing frustration at how much attention those negotiations had garnered.

"I never thought it would be public," Jeter said. "It was my understanding that it was going to be private. I can't tell you that I thought it was ever going to go this way."

Jeter said that he was "pretty angry" about Cashman's suggestion that he "test the market" to see what other offers were out there, but he added that "any issues I've had, we've addressed them and moved on."

The Yankees will also be continuing with their 41-year-old closer, Mariano Rivera, though that deal has not yet been officially announced. New York also engaged the agent for right-hander Kerry Wood, knowing he may receive offers to serve as a closer elsewhere.

"If he does [get a closer offer], obviously he won't pitch here, because I won't compete with closer money," Cashman said.

The Bombers' brass even spent part of Tuesday getting to know outfielder Carl Crawford, though the steak dinner it shared would be their only prize. Crawford agreed to a seven-year, $142 million deal with the Red Sox late Wednesday, and Cashman shrugged in the hotel lobby later that night.

"I knew it would be Anaheim or Boston. Just wasn't sure which one," he said.

Crawford was never going to be the focus, not during a trip when Cashman unpacked his bags in a sixth-floor suite and declared he needed to chase "pitching, pitching, pitching."

And the Yankees know that a pitcher of Lee's caliber won't come without a fight. The Rangers would love to keep Lee on board, and the Angels and Nationals have both been reported to have significant interest.

But as Cashman said, the Yankees have the ability to play in the biggest sandbox of all, an advantage they relish taking advantage of.

So if it takes going to a seventh year to make sure Lee comes on board, they've decided to reap the benefits now and worry about 2017 when they get there.

"We've got some money to spend," managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said. "If we've got money coming off, we almost always put most or all of it back in. That's what the fans expect. They expect us to field a good team every year and we're going to do that."

Deals done: Finalized a three-year, $51 million contract with Jeter that includes a player option for 2014, making the maximum value of the deal $65 million if all incentives are triggered.

Rule 5 Draft activity: Selected left-hander Robert Fish from the Angels' Triple-A roster; selected right-hander Daniel Turpen from the Red Sox's Triple-A roster; lost right-hander George Kontos to the Padres; and lost right-hander Lance Pendleton to the Astros.

Goals accomplished: The Yankees waited for weeks before officially tendering their first offer to Lee, and with other teams joining the pot, they then sweetened it by adding a seventh year before checking out of the Winter Meetings. They also welcomed Jeter back after what proved to be a publicly contentious contract negotiation, promising to move on as one big happy family.

Unfinished business: After they get a response from Lee, the Yankees will tackle their situation with Wood, though he's no lock to return. Neither is Pettitte, who is still toying with retirement but cheered on the pursuit of Lee. Cashman has also dabbled with picking up a catcher -- Russell Martin, for one -- who could back up rookie Jesus Montero and veteran Jorge Posada, who is being phased out from catching. They've also been reported to be talking to utility man Bill Hall, looking to upgrade the bench, and they would like to sign a lefty reliever to complement Boone Logan -- perhaps Scott Downs or Brian Fuentes. The Yankees were also reported to have shown interest in Mark Prior, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2006.

GM's bottom line: "I know that we're right on the player [Lee], and I hope that if he picks us, he's right on us. This is a great town to play in, a great baseball environment. We have the best fans in the world that support this franchise. I think he'd have great teammates around him that he'd really enjoy playing with." -- Cashman

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.