LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Cliff Lee has the Yankees in a holding pattern.
Brian Cashman made the lefthander an aggressive offer Wednesday, and the general manager won't do much of anything else this offseason until hearing back from Lee and his agent, Darek Braunecker, who left the winter meetings later in the day.
An industry source said the Yankees offered six years for about $140 million, which matched some of the pre-winter meetings predictions. "Nothing's changed," Cashman said. "What we intended to go in with is the same number."
He said later: "We've made an offer that it's not easy to be making, and I appreciate the fact the Steinbrenners are allowing us to make an offer to this degree. It's a big commitment on behalf of the fan base, and we'll see what happens."
Given the news late last night that the Red Sox reportedly signed Carl Crawford for seven years and $142 million, one wonders if Cashman might go back to Hal Steinbrenner to ask for more money for Lee.
If the Yankees already felt desperate to sign Lee, they must feel even more so now that the Red Sox have added standout lefthanded hitters Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.
Cashman would not confirm or deny that he had dinner with Crawford Tuesday, but a source confirmed it.
Entering the meetings, the Rangers were thought to be the Yankees' primary competition for Lee. That hasn't changed, though the Yankees were the only team as of last night known to have made a formal offer.
"We're willing to do certain things,'' Cashman said, "and there's certain things we're not willing to do.''
By all accounts, what the Yankees aren't willing to do is to go beyond six years, and some team officials are skeptical about Tuesday's reports that two teams were floating seven-year offers.
The prevailing question is whether anyone is willing to match $140 million. As of last night, no one had, and the industry belief is that Lee, although he enjoyed his half-season with the Rangers, ultimately will base his decision on money.
"[Braunecker] told me he's not close to making any decisions," Cashman said. "He hasn't gotten all the information. He's waiting on more teams to get their stuff together and put themselves in position to make an offer. He said, 'I'll let you know.' "
Cashman met with Pedro Feliciano's agent Wednesday, but nothing with the Yankees is expected to happen until Lee makes his decision.
"I'm a little bit like Hannibal Lecter in a straitjacket right now waiting on this Cliff Lee thing," Cashman joked. "It's kind of restricting my movements a little bit."
Manager Joe Girardi sees landing Lee as integral. "I see him as important to us, I do,'' Girardi said. "It's a rotation that now, not knowing what Andy [Pettitte] is going to do . . . It's a pretty young rotation with CC [Sabathia] at the top of it.''
Should Lee go elsewhere, Cashman said the Yankees have the resources to get a top pitcher by other means. With the rest of the free-agent starting pitching pool fairly shallow, that would have to happen via trade, which the Yankees have discussed at these meetings.
But Cashman would only say, "There's definitely pitchers out there available and I know we can line up with teams because of the deep farm system we have."
Cashman said he didn't have plans for any road trips - back to Lee's home state of Arkansas, for example - after this morning's Rule 5 draft that marks the end of the meetings, though one never knows.
"As of right now I have every intention of being at the Rule 5 draft and flying home tomorrow," he said. "And I do think that's what's going to happen."
Where he'll more than likely be waiting for Lee.
"We put our best foot forward,'' Cashman said, "and we'll see what happens."