UPDATE (12/9/2010 at 3:00 pm): Lee's agent Daren Braunecker had this to say to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick:
"We have no interest in participating in the unconventional negotiating style the club has requested. For the player to submit an offer to the club … that’s not the way the process works."Nolan Ryan's "just tell us what to offer" tactic is not in the best interest of Cliff Lee. Lee wants to maximize his value. Telling them what it will take to sign him hurts his ability to do so. By forcing the Rangers to make the proposal, Braunecker/Lee are leaving the Rangers open to overbidding. It's pretty smart. The Lee negotiations just keep getting more and more interesting.
UPDATE (12/9/2010 at 2:30 pm): Joel Sherman believes the Yankees offer was 7 years $161M, which is identical to the Sabathia deal. It seems to be down to a two team race again. The Yankees have the early lead, but the Rangers seem to be closing in.
UPDATE (12/9/2010 at 1:00 pm): Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rangers are going to go beyond five years for Lee. This isn't over yet.
Original Post (12/9/2010 at 11:30 am): ESPN's Buster Olney and SI's Jon Heyman report that the Yankees have shelved their six year offer to Cliff Lee, and replaced it with a sparkling new seven year deal. After all, you ain't cool unless you're signing players to seven year deals these days. While no details have been made available as to how much this new deal would be worth, a source close to the negotiations told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that the average annual salary is thought to be less than the $23.3M per season the Yankees offered under the six year deal.
While this appears as if this could be the clinching bid, it's not over yet. Ken Rosenthal tweeted earlier that Lee might drag talks through the weekend in hopes of extorting more money out of the Yankees, Rangers, Angels, and (maybe) Tigers. If this is the case, it's a very smart move. Lee has everyone right where they want them.
Lastly, Crasnick reports that that the Rangers are making a third trip out to Arkansas to visit with Lee this weekend. This shows me that the Rangers are very serious about Lee, and may end up giving him the six year deal Lee said he wanted. Now that the Yankees, Red Sox, and a mystery team have offered him seven years, I'm not sure six will do it. Still, it doesn't hurt to try.