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Slow pace of Lee talks frustrates Cashman

Cliff Lee speaks with the media.

Cliff Lee speaks with the media. Photo Credit: AP

TAMPA, Fla. - Brian Cashman arrived at the winter meetings, in his words, ready to "rock and roll."

Tuesday he sounded more than frustrated that Cliff Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker, have been content so far with a waltz.

"As a free agent, they dictate the pace and we have to go [to] their dance step," the Yankees general manager said at George M. Steinbrenner Field after the Derek Jeter news conference.

Cashman met with Braunecker on Monday, talked to him yesterday morning and planned to do so again last night. Asked if he thought the Yankees would reach an offer stage with Lee before the meetings conclude Thursday, Cashman shrugged.

"If they're willing to take one and they're ready to close something out, I'm willing to get serious," he said. "But we're just waiting for them to get to that position."

SI.com reported last night that two teams offered seven-year deals to Lee, though it didn't specify dollars. But the Yankees are skeptical that any team is offering seven years.

Part of Cashman's irritation with the slow pace could relate to Andy Pettitte. An industry source told Newsday Tuesday that the lefthander was "laying low," perhaps waiting to see where Lee ends up. If Lee signs with someone other than the Yankees, Pettitte, who is said to be leaning toward returning, would have more leverage in negotiating his 2011 salary.

Cashman didn't specify what a Yankees offer to Lee would look like. They seem willing, however, to go to six years and perhaps, if necessary, surpass the $23 million per season they paid two years ago for CC Sabathia, who signed for seven years and $161 million. Whichever mystery teams might be offering seven years, it's unlikely they'd offer that money.

"I know what we're willing to do, I know how far we're willing to go," Cashman said. "We'd love to add Cliff Lee to the Yankees' rotation, there's no doubt about that. He's going to weigh the opportunities presented to him and the offers presented to him and the locales presented to him, whatever they are, and measure it against whatever we're willing to do, and he'll make a call."

The locale serving as New York's main competition is the Dallas area, where Lee spent the season's second half with the Rangers. Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg and team president Nolan Ryan met with Lee's agent Tuesday.

"The process is moving slow, and I don't blame them for that," Ryan said, according to ESPNDallas.com. "I think they want to make sure they talk to everyone that has an interest and get a true feel for what the market is."

Yankees president Randy Levine, speaking at the Stadium after a news conference publicizing the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, essentially said what just about everyone in the sport thinks: If Lee's decision comes down solely to dollars, the Yankees should prevail.

"I hope that [money] has something to do with it, but that's up to Cliff Lee," Levine said. "It would be nice if it did."

Hal Steinbrenner left open the possibility of expanding his budget, saying he's willing to listen "whenever someone comes in my office," but would not elaborate.

Cashman has been monitoring more than Lee at these meetings.

"I will have my net cast very wide," said Cashman, who is known to have met with representatives of Carl Crawford, Pedro Feliciano and Matt Diaz, to name a few. "I've been engaging a lot of people and it's possible, I may jump out of these meetings and go somewhere and come back, just like a couple years ago. I've been very busy."

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