Cliff Lee’s Contract to Set Benchmark for All Free Agents, Determine Amount of Activity at Winter Meetings

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December 1, 2010

Cliff Lee's Contract to Set Benchmark for All Free Agents, Determine Amount of Activity at Winter Meetings Editor’s Note: NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will examine one hot-button baseball topic each day in December.

If you are a fan of Twitter and love to scan the bottom lines of the major sports networks, it will seem as if the winter meetings are absolutely loaded with action this year. Such is the media cycle at the annual event these days.

Even given the new regulations designed to quiet the masses, the media will still be utilized by agents, general managers and owners to get across certain messages. The question is, how much of it will be real and how much of it will simply be a case of posturing? Will there be a lot of activity at the winter meetings this year?

There are certainly many major moves waiting to happen, and the four-day get-together in Florida will serve as the breeding ground for most of them. But unless the first shoe drops, we may see a rather quiet session.

That shoe, of course, belongs to one Cliff Lee. While other moves have helped set the bar at certain positions (Victor Martinez, Joaquin Benoit, Troy Tulowitzki), Lee figures to sign the deal upon which all others can be compared. He will be the richest of all free agents when the winter ends and many are content to wait and see what happens on that front before they and their agent press forward.

According to reports, Lee may establish the pinnacle of the market when he signs with the New York Yankees during the meetings. If Lee balks at the Yanks? offers and turns his attention elsewhere, it?s a given that New York will scramble to pick from everything that?s left. That includes Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, Adam Dunn and others, each of whom wants to see if the market remains one that has been favorable to players, Derek Jeter notwithstanding.

Lee will act as the domino. If he signs with New York, then the biggest fish in the pond, monetarily speaking, will be satisfied and potentially less of a factor when it comes to other free agents. Other teams such as the Texas Rangers, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Boston Red Sox can then plot their course.

Not that everything the Yankees do dictates what everyone else does, but when they are the clear front-runners for the biggest name on the market, a guy who apparently wants to find a future home as soon as possible, then it only makes sense that all eyes will rest on that situation.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels said as much when asked about the link between Lee and all other moves.
“It’s all connected,” Daniels said.

Traditionally, most major moves occur later in the month of December, or even early January. With baseball?s expedited offseason calendar, that could change. Many teams have been forced to go through their processes at an earlier date and may be ready to pull the trigger on major moves by the end of the winter meetings.

If Lee remains unsigned, however, those teams may remain in such a state until later in the month.

On deck: Who are the top five shortstops in baseball?

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