By Art Martone
Cliff Lee's completely unexpected decision to leave money on the table -- from both New York and Texas -- and join the Phillies leaves the Yankees in the unfamiliar position of bridesmaid.
And where they go from here is anybody's guess.
Not since Greg Maddux in the 1992-93 offseason have the Yanks lost out on their prime free-agent target, and now the question is: What's Plan B? Carl Crawford was a potential option, but he, of course, is gone. There's been talk of them trading for the Royals' Zack Greinke; however, in the trade market the Yankees lose the overwhelming edge -- their checkbook -- they have in the free-agent part of talent acquisition. They'd have to satisfy Kansas City with minor-league prospects, and there's no guarantee the Royals won't receive a better offer elsewhere.
(Plus, there's also the not-so-inconsequential matter of Greinke's social anxiety disorder, which may make him unwillingnot suited to play in New York. That unwillingness cost them Lee's services, apparently; sources indicate the left-hander preferred not to deal with the white-hot Yankee spotlight. "He didn't want to pitch in New York," one Yankee official told the New York Daily News.)
But first the Yanks will have to recover from the psychic blow of being rejected, something they're not used to. In fact, their bedrock belief -- that anyone who's anyone should lust to be a Yankee -- was articulated by owner Hank Steinbrenner last week to the Associated Press:
"For somebody of that stature, it would certainly behoove him to be a Yankee."
How much blame will fall on the head of general manager Brian Cashman is anyone's guess. But, in discussing the Yankees' situation last week, he doesn't sound like he's inclined to make desperate, reactionary moves to make up for the loss of Lee.
"We have a top-of-the-rotation pitcher in CC Sabathia, an 18-game winner in Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett will rebound," Cashman said. "We also have some of the best young pitchers in baseball and a top 10 minor-league system. We got a really good team and will make it better regardless of what transpires.
"I am not panicked by it."
But how about everybody else in New York?
Art Martone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.