War of dollars heat up

Immediately after the Red Sox landed Carl Crawford, the Yankees boosted their already whopping offer to Cliff Lee.

Both the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers are in hot pursuit of lefty ace Cliff Lee.

Both the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers are in hot pursuit of lefty ace Cliff Lee.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Immediately after the Red Sox landed Carl Crawford, the Yankees boosted their already whopping offer to Cliff Lee. Their high-stakes rivalry is escalating, hundreds of millions of dollars by the hour.

The other teams in the majors? They can only marvel at Big Boys Gone Wild.

“I’ve never played in those poker games,” Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said Thursday. “It’s a different pool of players we focus on and look at. I hear about it and kind of move on.”

Too bad for Andy MacPhail, Baltimore’s president of baseball operations. His Orioles play in the same AL East as the Yankees and Red Sox.

“I want to form the Mid-Atlantic Division,” he said, totally kidding.

Not everyone is out the mix, though. The Texas Rangers, eager to re-sign Lee, went to pay him a visit in Arkansas. Still no timetable when the prize pitcher might make a decision on where to play in 2011.

“He’s a premier free agent,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “He’s worth waiting for.”

The winter meetings wrapped up Thursday after a brisk session full of trades and signings. The Baltimore Orioles made one more deal before leaving the Disney resort, getting shortstop J.J. Hardy from Minnesota.

Typically, several trades follow in the days after teams return home. Kansas City will certainly get pitches for former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, and the New York Mets have been listening to offers for outfielder Carlos Beltran.

In the biggest shifts of the week, Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez joined the Red Sox, Jayson Werth went to Washington, Carlos Pena moved to the Chicago Cubs and Paul Konerko stayed with the White Sox. Derek Jeter, meanwhile, completed his deal with the Yankees and admitted he was angry with how the team handled talks.

Mark Reynolds, J.J. Putz, Shaun Marcum, Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera also found new places to play. The Tampa Bay Rays, a playoff team last season, didn’t fare so well — as expected, the cost of doing business cost them Crawford and Pena, and shortstop Jason Bartlett might get traded to San Diego, too.

Boston general manager Theo Epstein wouldn’t directly confirm Crawford’s deal for $142 million and seven years.

“If things come together the way we hope and expect, we’ll be really satisfied,” he said.

Predictably, the Yankees quickly raised the ante for their No. 1 target, offering Lee a seven-year contract. That’s up from a six-year proposal worth nearly $140 million.

A person familiar with the Crawford deal told The Associated Press that his agreement was subject to passing a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

“You go into every winter with a Plan A, and sometimes it’s hard to pull that off and you move on to Plan B and C,” Epstein said. “I think adding an impact player was very important for where we were in the short-, medium- and long-term and adding two, as long as they were the right players in the right spots in the right situations, would be even better.”

A person with knowledge of the negotiations told the AP about the increased offer to Lee, without disclosing the dollar amount. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing.

The speedy Crawford is a four-time all-star and just won his first Gold Glove. He hit .307 with 19 home runs, an AL-leading 13 triples and 90 RBIs for Tampa Bay last season. He scored 110 runs and stole 47 bases.

A dynamic player at 29, he has spent his entire major league career with the Rays. He is the franchise leader in several categories, including hits, RBIs, runs and steals.

Gonzalez, an all-star slugger and Gold Glove first baseman, came in a trade with the Padres.

“We did this objectively over months and months and months,” Epstein said. “We realized there was a shot if things came together the right way, we could be pretty aggressive on a couple players we really liked.”

The Yankees never made an offer to Crawford, even though Cashman had dinner with him Tuesday night.

“It’s a great player. A great move,” Cashman said. “They’ve had two huge acquisitions. They’re loading up like they always do, and this is even more significant than a typical Red Sox reload. So they’ve done a great job so far.”

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