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Sources: Lee likely to get 7-year offer
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.
Five years will not be enough for Cliff Lee. Six might not be, either.
Lee, the prized free-agent left-hander, will receive a seven-year offer, according to major-league sources.
The New York Daily News reported Tuesday morning that the Washington Nationals are the team willing to go seven years, though that is unconfirmed.
The Nationals on Sunday stunned the baseball world by signing free- agent outfielder Jayson Werth to a seven-year, $126 million contract.
Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, wouldn't comment on the NYDN report.
The Washington Post quoted a team source Tuesday as saying a seven-year offer for Lee is "not happening."
The Yankees are the perceived front-runner to land Lee. However, one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking insisted that the Yankees do not plan to offer Lee seven years.
The Yankees, who continue to mount an aggressive push for Lee, met with Braunecker for a second time on Monday.
“While we’re in the same area, I’m going to try to meet with him as much as I possibly can,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told the Associated Press.
Lee is the Yankees’ top off-season target. The team, which also is trying to re-sign free-agent lefty Andy Pettitte, will be left scrambling to find more starting pitching if Lee chooses another club.
The Rangers, Lee’s previous team, are viewed as the top challenger to the Yankees in the bidding. But the negotiations appear to be moving beyond the Rangers’ comfort level.
The free-agent market is escalating this off-season, as best evidenced by Werth’s new deal. Werth, 31, will play the final three years of his contract at ages 36, 37 and 38.
Two years ago, the Yankees signed free-agent lefty CC Sabathia to a seven-year, $161 million contract. The difference is that Sabathia was 28 then, and Lee is 32 now.
Position players such as Werth generally are safer risks than pitchers. But from the start, Lee was considered by far the top starting pitcher on the open market.
The scarcity of elite starters – combined with another thin free-agent market projected for next off-season – appears to be driving demand.