"I have a No. 1," Cashman has said this week, meaning CC Sabathia.
But his manager sees it as more of a necessity.
"I see him as important to us, I do," Girardi said Wednesday afternoon. "It's a rotation that right now you look at it, not knowing what Andy's going to do, possibly adding Ivan Nova to the rotation and having Phil Hughes. It's a pretty young rotation with C.C. at the top of it. So I think he's pretty important."
The Yankees are expected to soon make an offer to Lee, probably in the range of six years and $140 million. Cashman has expressed frustration with the slow pace of the Lee talks at the meetings and it's not expected the lefthander will make a decision by the time everyone leaves here Thursday afternoon.
The Yankees remain the favorite to sign Lee -- team officials have been dubious all along regarding reports of the mystery teams willing to offer seven years -- but they do have a Plan B if the pitcher goes elsewhere.
"We have explored options, and I do feel that there are some options out there," Girardi said. "Obviously, as I've said all along, that Cliff Lee is the complete package. It was a guy that we tried to trade for at the deadline. It's a guy that we followed very closely. But the one thing that the Yankees always do if something doesn't work out, they always have other options and they'll consider other options."
One of those options, at least in terms of dispersing big money, is clearly Rays outfielder Carl Crawford. Cashman met with Crawford Tuesday night and though some of the buzz here Wednesday was the Yankees might try to find a way to sign both Crawford and Lee, an industry source said that was highly unlikely.
"He's a difference maker for any club he goes to," Girardi said. "He changes the complex of the game. When he's up, when he's on the bases, he's a great player. We've had a chance to see him a lot over the last six or seven years. And he's a pain. That is the type of player he is. You know that any single can be a triple. It's easy for him to score runs."
The Yankees feel one of their strengths is their starting outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, one of whom would likely have to be traded if Crawford came into the fold.
"We have a very good outfield, but it's something that you look at all the pieces that are out there and you make decisions," Girardi said. "Does it fit with your team or doesn't it fit? Maybe your Plan A doesn't go according to plan, and you go to something else."
With Ken Davidoff