SEATTLE - CC Sabathia thought it was a done deal.
"One hundred percent," Sabathia, one of Lee's closest friends in baseball, said Friday night. "When I talked to him this morning, I thought he was definitely coming."
So sure, in fact, that Sabathia's wife, Amber, and Lee's wife, Kristen, had discussions Friday "about places to live and things like that," he said.
But the deal fell through and the Rangers, not the Yankees, ended up with the Mariners' ace lefty.
Sabathia spoke to Lee three times Friday, as well as after Thursday night's game, when he told Lee some Yankees coaches, including pitching coach Dave Eiland and bullpen coach Mike Harkey, had begun asking about him. "I told them we got along great, he's great in the clubhouse," Sabathia said. "What you see is what you get. He's a good dude."
Sabathia didn't want to say Lee was disappointed with the way things worked out, only that "I know he was very excited about the possibility of coming here."
That, of course, remains a very real possibility this offseason after Lee becomes a free agent. "I don't think we'll have to do much recruiting," Sabathia said. "He knows what it's like over here. I've talked to him a bunch about being in the clubhouse and being a part of this team. Hopefully, it works out."
Manager Joe Girardi said he awoke Friday morning thinking the Yankees were close to acquiring Lee. He was barraged with text messages from friends, then made a call. He wouldn't say to whom, but general manager Brian Cashman would be a safe bet.
Regardless, Girardi wasn't ready to pencil Lee into his post-All-Star Game rotation.
"I heard people report that we were real close, but I don't get real caught up in that until the guy actually walks through the [clubhouse] door for a trade," Girardi said. "Because there's a lot of times things can break down at the last minute for whatever reason or they can break down right in the beginning. Until a guy walks through the door, I don't ever get too excited or think too much about it."
The two players who mostly likely would have been affected by the acquisition of Lee were Phil Hughes, Friday night's starter, and Javier Vazquez. Speculation had the Yankees possibly putting Hughes back in the bullpen, though the more intense discussion revolved around trading Vazquez. One specific rumor made the rounds - that the Yankees, after getting Lee, would send Vazquez to the Phillies for outfielder Jayson Werth.
Vazquez said he received several calls from friends regarding that rumor, and others, but otherwise, "I just go about my business."
He added: "Obviously, if they would have traded for him, he was going to start. But I know that I'm a good pitcher and whatever they wanted to do, I'm up for it. But they were just rumors."
But the ones that had Lee coming to the Yankees were more than that.
"I was thinking that it looks like I might be going to New York," Lee said Friday. "That's what they were saying, so I was thinking maybe that's reality. Then I came to find out that wasn't what happened. I think maybe that story triggered some other teams to get a little more aggressive and forced this to happen."