A baseball source with knowledge of the team's intentions said Friday that the Yankees are "going to throw their money out there and whoever's the first to take it will take it" when baseball's winter meetings get under way Monday in Orlando.
Lee is obviously the club's first priority; Yankees general manager Brian Cashman already has had discussions with Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, about a deal to bring the 2008 Cy Young Award winner to New York.
But contrary to the Yankees stated position at the end of the season that they were happy with their outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher, the team is sending out clear signals that it also intends to make a bid for Crawford, the former Tampa Bay Rays left fielder who became a free agent this winter.
But whether the message being sent out by the Yankees is meant to be received by Crawford or one of his other suitors, possibly the Boston Red Sox, remains to be seen.
Cashman is said to have had talks with Crawford's agent, Greg Genske, but after reports late Thursday that the Red Sox were one of several teams that offered multiyear deals to Mariano Rivera, perhaps driving up the Yankees cost to retain their 41-year-old closer, it is possible Cashman is returning the favor with Crawford.
In any event, it promises to be a busy week for the Yankees in Orlando. They will be competing with the Texas Rangers, among others, for the services of Lee, who is far and away the most sought-after free agent of this year's crop.
And if they are serious about Crawford, they will have to outbid not only the Red Sox, but the Los Angeles Angels, who are believed to be the front-runners in the sweepstakes to land the 29-year-old, who batted .307 with 19 home runs and 90 RBIs in 2010.
At the same time, they are trying to finish off deals with Rivera and Derek Jeter before Monday, which would help determine how much they have left to spend on free agents.
"That would be nirvana," said a source with knowledge of the negotiations with both Rivera and Jeter. The source confirmed the Yankees are on the verge of closing a two-year deal for Rivera worth in the neighborhood of $30 million, give or take a million or two, but not nearly so close on Jeter.
According to reports, the Yankees have sweetened their original three-year, $45 million offer to Jeter but the two sides remain substantially apart.
Crawford, too, is expected to command about $15 million a year for between five and seven years, a deal the Yankees seemed reluctant to make at the end of their season.
"He's a better player than Gardner," a Yankee insider told ESPNNewYork.com in October. "But we don't think he's 30 times better."
Gardner, who hit .277 with just five home runs and 47 RBIs but had an on-base percentage of .383 to Crawford's .356, made the major league minimum of $452,500 in 2010.
Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand cover the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.