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MLB Rumors: Cliff Lee Now Becomes Yankees Top Target, Could Be Signed Soon

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst IDecember 1, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 01:  Cliff Lee #33 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the San Francisco Giants 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)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

It's the end of November, and the Yankees have stalled with their negotiations with Derek Jeter and his agent, Casey Close.

So now it looks like they are putting the negotiations with Jeter on hold to go after the biggest prize on the free agent market that they have coveted since last winter.

According to the New York Post's George King, there are major signs that are pointing to Lee signing with the Yankees once the Baseball Winter Meetings begin in Orlando next week.

The Rangers have already prepared to begin their 2011 season without Lee and may in fact know that he may be heading to the Yankees.

They have a possible plan to move closer and 2010 Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz to a starter and then go after a closer like Rafael Soriano.

Or they could pursue a trade for Kansas City Royals ace and 2009 Cy Young Winner Zack Greinke, and with the Texas farm system being very deep, Texas could be able to pull off a trade like that for Greinke.

Many have felt that Greinke would be the Yankees back-up plan if Lee didn't sign with New York, but Greinke has the Yankees on his no-trade list, plus any deal involving Greinke would almost include catching prospect Jesus Montero, who will have a chance to win the starting job for the Yankees in 2011.

Last week, Yahoo's Tim Brown wrote a story which said the Yankees had an offer of six years and $140 million ready for Lee, which was not confirmed and was just mostly speculation through the baseball executives.

However, a possible offer could still be handed out to Lee by the Yankees and according to King's story, if the Yankees offer Lee that type of contract, Texas wouldn't be able to match it.

Earlier this month in a free agent prediction story, I had predicted the Yankees would sign Lee because with so many question marks around the Yankees rotation, getting Lee has become more of a necessity than a luxury. If the Yankees offer a six-year deal anywhere near $140 million, I, like over 80 percent of the poll I did in my last story, felt as if Lee will accept that offer and sign with the Yankees.

Once the winter meetings in Orlando get closer, we'll start to hear more and more speculation as to where Lee will be signing long term.

As far as where the Yankees stand, they haven't advanced in progress with the Jeter negotiations, the talks with Mariano Rivera are starting to pick up a little, and they are waiting to hear whether Andy Pettitte will pitch in 2011 or retire, so that makes Lee the main priority in the offseason plans, which was no secret to begin with.

Right now, it looks as if the Yankees are becoming the odds-on favorites in the Cliff Lee Sweepstakes.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.

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