The sky is not falling in New York City on Tuesday, contrary to what some might have you believe. As Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had said, as if preparing for the Cliff Lee news, "Life goes on."
Indeed, they do not print out "2010 Offseason Champions" jackets and T-shirts. If they did, they would be flying off the racks on Yawkey Way, especially after Lee, the Yanks' top priority of the winter, took fewer years and significantly less money to go to the National League, leaving the Red Sox as clear winners between the two rivals in the Hot Stove sweepstakes.
If anyone believes Cashman's oh-well approach to the scenario, they figure he, and his team, will be fine. If they do not, there are other silver linings in the otherwise cloudy skies over the Bronx.
Based on the contract to which Lee agreed with the Philadelphia Phillies, he likely never wanted to go to New York anyway. If he did, at least $18 million and two years wouldn't have been left at the table. Instead, Lee found a landing spot with which he was familiar and will allow him to be successful. Given the popcorn league that is the NL, Lee will have a great chance to remain dominant through the duration of the deal, gain entry into Hall of Fame discussions and perhaps land another three- or four-year contract at the end of it, if he is so inclined. Had he faded in the final two years of a six- or seven-year deal with the Yankees — a legit concern given the AL East gauntlet and the fact that he would be approaching 40 at the time — perhaps Lee would just walk off into the sunset, content with the millions he had made and a checkered run with the Pinstripers.
Cashman knew these scenarios were legit and knew the baseball world would write the obituary for the 2011 Yankees if and when they lost out on Lee. But it's not as if the Yanks' GM is left with mincemeat. To say New York has failed miserably this offseason is a bit premature. To say it is doomed next season is as well.
The Yankees, who obviously had no need for Adrian Gonzalez, never lost out on Carl Crawford. They never even made him an offer. They had dinner with him and seemingly never moved him any higher on the list of priorities. With a relatively cheap, relatively young outfield that ranked as one of the best in the AL in many offensive and defensive categories last year, there figured to be only a passing interest in Crawford on the part of Cashman. If in fact he had fallen for the speedster, he knew that the backup plan of going with what the team already had in the outfield is not a bad one.
The Yanks' missing out on Crawford did not sting Cashman. Seeing him go to Boston might have, but New York was all-in on Lee, while cognizant of the fact that he would have his share of suitors. In the event one of those suitors won the bidding, Cashman had fallback plans there as well.
The GM made two notable visits to pitchers early in the offseason. One was to Lee, paid to the lefty's Arkansas home. Another was to A.J. Burnett. In the latter of the two, Cashman was offering a vote of confidence and a show of support to the combustible Burnett, whose results often do not match his stuff.
Cashman may soon be making a third and fourth such visit, one to Andy Pettitte — who now has gained a great deal of ammunition in any contract negotiations with the Yankees — and another to reliever Kerry Wood's home. If any of those visits yield anything significant — either a Burnett turnaround or deals for Pettitte or Wood — New York might be OK. If each of them is fruitful, the club will be just fine.
If not, then the Yankees will be in trouble, at least when compared to their counterparts in Boston. Then, it might be time to label this a lost offseason in the Bronx, and to mark up the price on those "2010 Offseason Champions" T-shirts on Yawkey Way.
Cashman probably takes a small.
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