Buster Olney of ESPN spoke with the agent for Seattle Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee last night about the southpaw’s future plans, and apparently signing a contract extension with the M’s is not in it.

“We’re five months away from free agency,” said Braunecker, “so I think that’s the most likely scenario at this point.”

“We’ve not really had any significant discussions with Seattle. I wouldn’t anticipate a deal [with the Mariners].”

This is great news for the Yankees because they are likely to have to replace Andy Pettitte, Javier Vazquez, or both in next year’s rotation. If Lee is on the free-agent market, that gives the Yanks a very strong option to plug into their rotation.

This was not a forgone conclusion, either, as the trend in baseball lately has been to extend big-name pitchers before they hit free agency. We’ve seen it with Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, and Josh Beckett. The fact that it appears that Lee will hit the open market should have the Yankees front office salivating.


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