The Yankees, with baseball's best record, are deep in discussions with the Seattle Mariners to acquire ace left-hander Cliff Lee, the most sought-after starting pitcher on the market this month, according to CBSSports.com sources.
However, sources cautioned that the deal is not done and there were indications Friday afternoon that the Mariners were continuing to shop Lee. One major-league source told CBSSports.com that, among other teams, the Texas Rangers are continuing full throttle attempting to acquire Lee.
It is believed that Minnesota, which held a conference call involving it's top baseball people at midday Friday, is continuing to push hard as well.
Meanwhile, the Yankees and Mariners were discussing the framework of a deal that would send one of New York's top prospects, catcher Jesus Montero, minor-league infielder David Adams and a third prospect to the Mariners for Lee. The New York Post's Joel Sherman first reported the names early this morning.
The deal was not yet finished as of midday Friday, but sources say the Yankees were aggressively trying to move it toward the finish line. Among the pressure points: Lee is scheduled to start tonight's game in Seattle against the Yankees.
Lee's 2.34 ERA currently leads the American League. He also leads the league with five complete games. If they acquire him, the Yankees would add a tremendous insurance policy to a rotation that already ranks third in the AL with a 3.79 ERA.
Along with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte, Lee would give the Yankees a fourth starter who has been named to Tuesday's All-Star Game. A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez would be the only odd men out, and that could go literally for Vazquez: The Yankees would need to clear room in their rotation and they appear moving along in talks to spin him off in a separate trade elsewhere.
The move also would add depth to a rotation that could need it down the stretch, even as dominating as its been so far: Hughes has worked 94 innings so far this season and, at 24 and as they work to ensure his long-term health, the Yankees really prefer he doesn't exceed much more than 170 innings pitched this season. That could become an issue in September and October.
Montero, just 20, was named as the top prospect in the Yankees' organization last winter by Baseball America. The Mariners are seeking good, young hitters, among other things, and catching is among the organizational areas they need to improve. If the Yankees can pull this off, they'll block Minnesota -- which could offer catching prospect Wilson Ramos -- among several other interested clubs.
Bottom line is, it appears as if the bewitching hour has arrived for anybody and everybody who was in -- or wanted to be in -- the Lee talks. Minnesota, Texas, the Mets, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay ... the list is lengthy.
If the Yankees can acquire Lee, it will reunite him and Sabathia, the pillars of Cleveland rotations that allowed the Indians to contend earlier this decade.
It also will give both he and they a test run together as Lee, owed about $4.5 million the rest of this season, heads toward free agency. Translation: The Daddy Rich Yankees likely will have an advantage in re-signing him, if and when the time comes.