Let’s face it. No one knows where Cliff Lee will sign. ESPN Los Angeles thinks he will go to the Angels. Within a span of a day, the Washington Nationals, spending like a kid with their parents’ credit card, were “prepared to offer Lee a 7-year contract”, only to have the story retracted later. The Texas Rangers still think they can lasso Lee back to Texas based on his “likeness to his time in Arlington” according to ESPN Dallas – Fort Worth. Lastly, ESPN New York seems to think the Yankees are ready to make their big purchase. As you can see, there can be no conclusion drawn besides A. Teams want Cliff Lee, B. Teams besides the Yankees want Cliff Lee and C. ESPN has too many websites giving spectulative information. However, if another team manages to sign him, the Yankees will need to have a contingency plan, especially with the recent news out of the Andy Pettitte camp. Let’s look at some possible free agent targets, and if there is any shot the Yankees will sign them.

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1. Jorge De La Rosa – 2010 with Colorado – 8-7, 5.22 ERA, 1.315 WHIP, 2.05 K/BB
Availability: Resigned by Colorado Rockies (2 years, $21 M)
If that is the price for someone who logged 125 innings last year and walked four batters per nine innings, it’s going to be a very, very expensive offseason.

2. Carl Pavan0 – 2010 with Minnesota – 17-11, 3.75 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 3.11 K/BB
Availability: Free agent
Let’s be honest. Is there really any way the Yankees will sign this clown again? If he was anyone besides Carl Pavano and had that stat line from 2010, he would be without a doubt the #2 free agent pitcher. But his injury-riddled past will not allow him to be signed long-term by any team, especially the Yankees.

3. Brad Penny – 2010 with St. Louis – 3-4, 3.23 ERA, 1.293 WHIP, 5.7 K/BB
Availability: Free agent
Penny put up some decent numbers in only 55 innings for the St. Louis Cardinals, but a strained oblique and back suffered in May sidelined him for the rest of the season. This forced the Cardinals to have to go out and acquire Jake Westbrook before the trade deadline. This being said, Penny will most likely get a very incentive-laden contract that will force him to throw X number of innings. Also, the team would have to have the cash reserves to pick up a Jake Westbrook-ish player in case injury happens again.

This being the “cream of the crop” of the free agent market in 2011 speaks volumes. This means that when teams get a chance to grab an ace like CC Sabathia or Roy Halladay, they go out and get him and offer him so much money it cannot be refused. Also, by looking at the pure mediocrity on the list, there is not one free agent starter I would rather have (other than Cliff Lee) in my starting rotation besides Ivan Nova. Throw him out there fifth, and see what he can do. There’s almost no way he can be worse than Javier Vazquez, who by the way, got a $7 million dollar deal to pitch with the Florida Marlins. That money can be used it a much better way, such as convincing Andy Pettitte to give it one more go-around.

All in all, this year’s pitchers are just weak. If Cliff Lee signs anywhere besides the Bronx, Brian Cashman will have a lot of explaining to do. For him to make things right in Yankeeland then, the immediate signing of Carl Crawford, even though he is not needed, would be the only transaction that would temporarily remove the loss of Cliff Lee from our minds.