LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Yankees turned their attention to Cliff Lee as the winter meetings began, having all but finished negotiations to re-sign Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman met Monday with Darek Braunecker, Lee’s agent.
“While we’re in the same area, I’m going to try to meet with him as much I possibly can,” Cashman said.
He insisted the first big deal of the week, Washington’s $126 million, seven-year contract with outfielder Jayson Werth, won’t inflate what the Yankees will offer the left-hander.
“I know what and where we’re willing to do,” Cashman said. “It’s not going to impact us. But it may impact them. I’ve got no idea.”
Texas also wants to re-sign the 32-year-old Lee, who helped the Rangers reach the World Series for the first time after he was acquired from Seattle in July.
Braunecker expects more teams to attempt to sign Lee, the top pitcher on the free-agent market.
“There’s always clubs that kind of lay in the weeds,” he said. “To me, you’re talking about the best player on the market. There’s still, certainly, a need for starting pitching that stems beyond the clubs that have been mentioned so far.”
Wearing a Yankees T-shirt, blue jeans, hooded sweatshirt and flip flops, Cashman said he stayed in his suite all day while meeting with agents and teams. He would only specifically discuss Lee, since it is known the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner is New York’s top priority.
Cashman visited Lee at the pitcher’s home in Arkansas. Texas is a far more convenient commute for Lee than New York would be.
“Being at home is a factor for anybody that goes through this process,” Braunecker said. “To what degree, we’ll figure out as the process continues to revolve.”
Cashman says his budget is more firm now than it was when George Steinbrenner was running the team. Steinbrenner would go over budget to sign players he thought would help the Yankees win.
“Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t hear that — the most important ones, the ones you’re negotiating with, until they find out it’s too late,” Cashman said.
New York was planning a Tuesday news conference at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to announce its $51 million, three-year contract with Jeter, which fell into place Saturday subject to a physical and agreement on contract language. Public statements from the sides had grown a little testy last month.
“I don’t think there’s any issues,” Cashman said.
On other topics, Cashman said Andy Pettitte “told me personally he was leaning toward retirement. He’s not officially retired. I talked to his agent maybe a week to 10 days ago. That position hadn’t changed.”
New York remains interested in re-signing Kerry Wood as a setup man for Mariano Rivera, who is in the process of finalizing a $30 million, two-year deal. But Cashman said Wood would sign elsewhere if another team wants him as a closer.
Cashman is not looking for any batters to fill the designated hitter spot, intending Jorge Posada to switch there from catcher.
“He’s our DH,” he said. “That’s what he is — unless he plays himself off of it.”