It was all but official that the former Cy Young winner was heading to the Bronx, making their rotation the clear best in baseball.
Then, in a twist that seemed massively out of Yankees character, the deal fell through and Lee ended up in Texas.
Now, the Rangers not only pose a legitimate threat to win the AL Pennant, but they are talking about locking up Lee, a prospective free agent, for the future.
"We feel like we have a pretty good handle on how to keep this team together with Cliff as a part of it," said new owner Chuck Greenberg.
At under $65 million to start the season, Texas had a surprisingly low payroll, and increasing it substantially may be a viable option.
The Yankees, though, will need to find a way to beat out the Rangers in round two of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes. We all know they have the money to do it.
As much as New York fans have complained about Joba Chamberlain's struggles, Curtis Granderson's abysmal average against lefties, Jorge Posada's inability to play catcher and Alex Rodriguez's down year, those aren't their real problems.
The actual issue for the Yankees is obvious. CC Sabathia is great; Phil Hughes is usually great; and then, there are some major questions.
Andy Pettitte, when healthy, has been awesome this season. His 2.88 ERA is among his best ever, and his case for the Hall of Fame is becoming increasingly legitimate. After suffering a setback in a simulated game on Friday though, it's beginning to seem like Pettitte could be out for the season, or at least much longer than anticipated.
Next, there's the recent disaster that is A.J. Burnett, who has pitched awfully of late and himself has injury issues. The fifth member of the rotation, Javier Vasquez, has recently brought the term "dead arm" into baseball fans' lexicon.
It's not like Yankee fans didn't see that one coming before the team re-signed the guy, though.
Knowing the Yankees, all of this means that a big-name arm is on the way to the Bronx this offseason. The problem: There aren't many options.
Ted Lilly may be available at the end of the season, but who actually can get excited about Ted Lilly? If you want to gamble on injury-prone guys, you can take your chances on Erik Bedard or Justin Duchscherer. Of course, if you really want to roll the dice on inconsistent guys with high ceilings, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Rich Harden and Jeremy Bonderman may be available too.
There's only one name on the list of upcoming free-agent starters who is a sure thing — Cliff Lee (even though he was down in the minors figuring his stuff out as recently as 2007).
Two facts are very clear. New York needs a starter going forward, and New York has pretty much all the money in the world.
If Texas intends to make a big offer to Lee, New York needs to do what it does best and make Lee an offer he can't refuse, a Sabathia-type offer.
Pettitte may be healthy and dominant again in 2011, but he is 38, and who knows what Burnett and Vasquez will offer going forward?
As always, the Yankees are in pretty good shape, but if they want to avoid a nervous playoff run in 2011, they'll need Cliff Lee.
Luckily for them, they are the Yankees.
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