Cliff Lee Might Cost The Yankees More Than Just Money

James Stewart-Meudt@@JSMeudtCorrespondent IIDecember 8, 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

While the Yankees have free agent pitcher Cliff Lee directly in their sights, the Winter Meetings continue around them.

Teams are trying to find talent wherever they can in the hopes of bolstering their respective team for 2011.

While Lee is the biggest free agent on the market, outfielder Carl Crawford is a close second.

Crawford's combination of speed, power and defense makes him a fit for almost every team. His price tag is going to be very high after another free agent outfielder, Jayson Werth, signed a seven-year, $125 million contract with the Washington Nationals.

Crawford was already going to ask for a contract of around seven years, but it's going to cost even more to land him than it did Werth because Crawford is a much better overall player.

Going into the offseason, the Yankees were considered the favorites to land Lee since they can offer him the most money. And if Lee wants a chance to play for a contending team every season, the Yankees again appear to most logical destination.

The Yankees have made the first public offer for Lee at six years, $140-150 million.

That's probably more money than any other team will offer the lefty, and the years are probably the ceiling as well.

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But while Lee obviously has to sign somewhere, he and his agent Darek Braunecker haven't formally engaged any team in negotiations. Instead, they're biding their time and waiting for something.

Lee is holding the Yankees hostage, preventing them from aggressively pursuing any other free agent. And while the Yankees sit in a holding pattern, the rest of the market is developing around them.

A report is coming out of the Winter Meetings that says outfielder Carl Crawford, potentially the Yankees' free agent fall-back guy should they loose out on Lee, is going to land with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Mark Saxon of is reporting that, according to "multiple high-ranking baseball sources," the outfielder is expected to land with the Angels.

The Yankees reportedly feel they have enough in their budget to sign both Lee and Crawford. But if they have to keep waiting on Lee just to give them a chance to start negotiating, will Crawford sign with another team?

There are multiple reports that Crawford is the Angel's No.1 focus and one baseball source said, "It was almost like he's already on their team."

The Angels will have to decide exactly how far they're willing to extend themselves financially to keep Crawford away from teams like the Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers or Detriot Tigers that are also interested in the outfielder.

The Yankees need Cliff Lee; it's no secret. With Andy Pettitte likely to retire and A.J. Burnett unreliable, the Yankees' starting rotation needs a shot in the arm. Clif Lee is the perfect perscription.

But while they sit on their hands, waiting for Lee to even engage them in talks, Carl Crawford might be slipping through their fingers.