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Steinbrenner Looks To Pettitte When Evaluating Risk Of Lee Offer

Cliff Lee

The Associated Press reported early on Dec. 14, 2010, that the Yankees had dropped out of the running for free agent left-hander Cliff Lee. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hank Steinbrenner looks to Andy Pettitte when evaluating the risk of offering a seven-year contract to Cliff Lee.

The New York Yankees and Texas Rangers are waiting for a decision from the 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, who is contemplating offers from both teams before making a decision on where to sign.

“For somebody of that stature, it would certainly behoove him to be a Yankee, which would probably be for the rest of his career,” Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ co-chairman, said during a telephone interview Friday with The Associated Press. “I think that would be a great move for him but, of course I’m prejudiced.”

New York offered a six-year deal to the 32-year-old left-hander on Wednesday worth $137.5 million to $140 million, then increased it to seven years the following day after Boston reached a $142 million, seven-year deal with All-Star outfielder Carl Crawford.

“Everything is progressing,” Steinbrenner said. “We made the offer. It’s a very good offer, and we certainly hopes he takes it. It’s all up to him and his agent. We’ll see what happens.”

Lee would be 39 in the contract’s final season, but Steinbrenner isn’t worried. He cites the example of Pettitte, who at 38 was 11-3 with a 3.28 ERA this year while missing two months because of a groin strain, a year after going 14-8 with a 4.16 ERA.

“Looking at how well Andy pitched up until this year and so forth, and he’s a lefty, the same kind of pitcher as Andy, I don’t really see a problem,” Steinbrenner said. “I think Cliff’s the kind of guy that can get it done and be effective for a long time. He’s a great pitcher.”

Texas owner Chuck Greenberg visited Lee in Arkansas and presented what he said were multiple offers. The Rangers obtained Lee from Seattle in July, and Lee led the Texas to its first World Series appearances.

“The information we gave him yesterday is a lot to digest,” Greenberg said in a separate interview with the AP. “We want them to take as much time as they need to come to a fully informed decision that they are comfortable with.”

Lee’s agent, Darek Braunecker, did not respond to messages.

With Boston obtaining Adrian Gonzalez from San Diego and adding Crawford, the Yankees figure to try to add left-handed pitching. Lee would combine with CC Sabathia and possibly Pettitte, who is weighing retirement, to give New York three lefty starters.

“Having Cliff and CC would be huge for us,” Steinbrenner said. “But it would be huge no matter whether they were lefty or righty, because they’re just that good.”

Phil Hughes went 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA this year and wound up as the Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind Sabathia. Ivan Nova is another candidate for the rotation, especially if Pettitte retires.

“Most of the season last season, he was fantastic — he just got tired out at the end,” Steinbrenner said of Hughes. “In the second full season as a starter, he’s going to be that much better. We’ve got some good young pitchers coming, too. Everybody thinks Nova is the real deal. And with the pitching we’re going to have and the bullpen, and with the hitting we’re going to have, as we always do, I would hope that Cliff would want to join the party.”