On the first day of free agency, the Yankees have already shown their priorities in this winter’s free agency.

They contacted the agent of Cliff Lee, Darek Braunecker, to let them know they are going to be courting the left-hander to come to the Bronx.

Now, General Manager Brian Cashman is taking the next step in the process.

According to ESPN and the New York Post, Cashman is flying down to Arkansas to meet with Lee and his family for a meeting that probably will involve Cashman’s selling of New York.

Now, I’m sure somewhere in his speech Cashman will be apologizing to Lee’s wife Kristen for the way some of the fans acted towards her and the other Rangers’ spouses during Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS.

According to the USA Today report, she had told them some of the Yankee fans cursed and even spat in their area during the game. Unfortunately, this can be the typical behavior from the drunken fans at any sporting event.

Lee and his wife have said it would not affect their decision in the free agent process. Even so, Cashman will still be apologizing.

Many expect that Lee and Braunecker will ask the Yankees for a contract similar to the one the Yankees gave CC Sabathia back in December of 2008, which was seven years and $162 million dollars.

Personally, to get Lee to New York, Cashman should give Lee whatever he wants, solely because he is that important to the rotation for 2011 and beyond.

Lee is 32, but he’s a very durable 32. In his elder years, Lee still remains one of the best pitchers in the game with great location.

Oh yea, not to mention, he’s only 7-2 lifetime in the postseason and 3-0 against the Yankees, two of those came in the 2009 World Series.

Despite the World Series, Lee was still very dominant in the playoffs. He was 2-0 in the ALDS against the Rays, which included out-pitching David Price twice, and he was 1-0 against the Yankees, a game where he out-dueled Andy Pettitte in a 13 strikeout performance.

In July during the trading deadline period, the Yankees nearly acquired Lee from the Mariners for a deal that included top catching prospect Jesus Montero. Seattle nixed the deal because of the other prospects the Yankees were offering and decided to trade Lee to the Rangers.

Two things people saw from that deal; the first, if Seattle had to do that deal over, many thought they should have taken the Yankees offer because the offer they got back from the Rangers wasn’t as great as advertised, and second is if getting Lee gave the Rangers rotation enough stability to get them through most of the playoffs and into the World Series, while the Yankees missing out made them fall short, and especially falling short in the series against Texas.

This is why the Yankees are making Lee the number one priority.

I can see some people saying, “But why aren’t Derek Jeter and/or Mariano Rivera the top priorities right now?”

They are just as high priorities for the Yankees, but they are unlike to go anywhere else. 

Jeter and Rivera are lifetime Yankees who want to retire in New York. They are going to re-sign with the Yankees this off-season, and I’m sure both know the Yankees need Lee on the team.

As of right now, nobody is sure if Cashman will offer Lee a contract on Wednesday’s meeting. For all we know, it is the simple “meet and greet” type. But Cashman flying down to Arkansas was a very important move in the early stages.

If the process continues to move forward, I wonder if Sabathia and his wife Amber get involved with the recruiting period. Sabathia and Lee are very close friends, as are their wives Kristen and Amber, which could really be a key factor in getting Lee to the Yankees.

Back in July, CC and Amber were helping Lee and Kristen try to figure out where they were going to live if Lee got traded to New York.

I’m sure CC has already sold Lee on how great it is being in New York and playing for the Yankees, especially since their 2009 World Series and reaching the ALCS in 2010.

The chance for a World Series is the missing piece for Lee, and winning it in New York with his former Cleveland teammate may be especially convincing to get him.

Braunecker has said the free agent process is in the “infancy” stages, so who knows how long it will take. Many suggest it could go up to at least the MLB Winter Meetings next month.

Whatever the case may be, the Yankees are pulling out all stops and have shown they will do whatever it takes to get Lee in pinstripes.

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