The Yankees have been linked to lots of players already this offseason. So many that it makes it hard to tell what’s real and what isn’t. I thought I’d throw together this story in order to help our readers make sense of what’s happening.

First of all, it should be said that while most of the rumors reported aren’t just journalists making up news. They probably did hear something. Whether or not what they heard is good information or comes to fruition is a totally different story.

Especially with the Yankees, any rumblings at all are reported because the fan base is so large that even mentioning them gets a news source extra traffic. So I will try to explain what’s going on with these rumors.

Let’s start with the Yankees own three free agents, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

We’ve been hearing a lot about Jeter so far. Most of it is coming from Joel Sherman of the NY Post because he’s the longest tenured beat writer and has the best contacts within the Yankees organization. Most of what he’s heard does not directly come from Brian Cashman himself, but I have a feeling it is somebody important within the organization.

The latest with Jeter is that the Yankees are preparing to offer him a contract somewhere around three-years and $45 million. The Yankees seem prepared to increase that offer, but sound reluctant to increase the years. In the end this could go to three-years and $60 million. The Yankees may take a hard line on extending the years and it will likely be a team option if they break.

The latest with Rivera isn’t much. “Friends” keep saying that he wants a two-year deal, but we haven’t heard that directly from him and he hasn’t expressed that to the Yankees. If this is true, the Yankees will resist this, but ultimately will probably give in. The Yankees probably won’t take care of Rivera until they are done with Jeter.

There really isn’t a whole lot going on with Pettitte. The Yankees told him they want him back and said take your time coming to a decision of whether to retire or not. A Texas radio station caught up with him a couple weeks back now and he said he was leaning toward retirement, but he tends to say that early in every offseason. The general consensus is that he will play one more year.

Cliff Lee is the next order of business and probably the biggest. The Yankees have had their eye on him for a while now. Their pitching staff isn’t nearly as bad as some have made it out to be, but without Lee there would be a pretty big hole to fill. It also would change their plans for the offense. Currently they like the offense and would like to keep their current squad together, but might have to break it up if they have to make a trade for a pitcher if they fail to sign Lee.

The latest is that Texas owner Nolan Ryan admitted that he isn’t going to be able to out-bid the Yankees. Most people think the bottom line will be about money for him so this bodes well for the Yankees. He hasn’t gotten any offers yet, but that should happen very soon. The Yankees are expected to make one of the last, and biggest, offers.

The next spot GM Brian Cashman has identified as an area of need is adding a lefty reliever. There are a few on the markets, but the names we’ve heard are J.C. Romero and Pedro Feliciano. Scott Downs might be the biggest name out there, but the Yankees are expected to be reluctant to sign him because as a Type-A free agent he will cost them a draft pick to sign.

There isn’t much news to report on either Romero or Feliciano. The Yankees have checked in with both and will probably make a decision based on their price tag. There will be other names to join this list before it’s over.

We haven’t heard much on Kerry Wood, but the Yankees aren’t expected to re-sign him because he would serve as a setup man for them and he probably wants to close somewhere. Some think that doesn’t matter, but it does because even if he took a setup job he would want closer money and the Yankees aren’t going to offer that.

After that the Yankees aren’t expected to make many moves. They will address the bench and it’s early, but Bill Hall is one name they have expressed interest in. Again though, it’s early and this signing will probably happen late in the offseason and other names will join Hall.

The other big names the Yankees have been linked to are Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and Justin Upton. With Crawford he seems to be the most likely of the three that they might get, but at best he’s plan B after signing Lee.

Werth probably has no shot at joining the Yankees for a number of reasons mostly due to age and cost. The Yankees would love to get Upton, but they like their outfield and don’t want to trade the four or five quality prospects it would take to make a marginal upgrade at the position. In the end the Yankees probably won’t get any of these three.

I’ll wrap this up quickly. Teams are interested in trading for some of the Yankees own players. Atlanta, and probably a few other teams, would love to have Eduardo Nunez, but that probably isn’t happening as they’re likely to keep him. There has also been interest in all three of the Yankees outfielders, but unless the Yankees don’t sign Lee, this isn’t happening either.

Essentially a lot of this offseason rests on whether or not the Yankees get Lee. If they get him they’ll probably stand pat with their offense, add a reliever or three, and some bench players and call it quits. If they don’t sign him then they are going to have to look for pitching else where.

One name that’s been out there has been Jorge de la Rosa, but they’re probably not going to sign him as he probably isn’t good enough to warrant the multi-year deal he’s going to command.

That leaves the trade market. Zack Greinke is the biggest name out there, but he isn’t likely to waive his no trade clause to come to the Bronx. Other names out there include James Shields and Matt Garza from Tampa Bay, but the Yankees have not been linked to them at all and it’s unclear if the Rays would even trade them within the division.

If Lee signs with any other team but the Yankees all bets are off and they will have to reevaluate their entire pitching and offensive plans.

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