LAS VEGAS – While talks have intensified between the New York Yankees and the agent for Derek Lowe, the free-agent pitcher is not on the verge of signing yet, according to a baseball source close to the negotiations.
Lowe has offers in hand from the Yankees and the Philadelphia Phillies, with the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox also actively engaged in talks, according to the source. The Red Sox had not yet made an offer as of midday Wednesday.
Lowe's desire to return to Boston has been overstated, the source said. While he would welcome a chance to pitch for the Red Sox, where he mostly flourished from 1998 to 2004, his primary interest is in signing with a club that he believes has a chance to win over the next five years.
The Milwaukee Brewers also were believed to have made contact with agent Scott Boras regarding Lowe once it was clear CC Sabathia had signed with the Yankees rather than returning to Milwaukee, but with Lowe expected to receive at least $16 million a season, the Brewers don't figure to be in play.
The Yankees and Phillies, however, can afford him. Lowe, whose last contract was for four years and $36 million from the Dodgers, is seeking a five-year deal. The Yankees and Phillies both are more interested in a four-year contract in the $65 million range, and the team that steps up with the fifth year could land the 35-year-old.
There is no chance that Lowe, who has won at least 12 games seven years in a row, would return to the Dodgers, even though they need a starter as much as any team.
Lowe is one of three top-tier free-agent starters still on the market. A.J. Burnett has been pursued by the Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves, who reportedly made him an offer of $80 million over five years on Tuesday night. Burnett has made it clear that he wants a five-year deal, which has given pause to the Red Sox, among other teams.
The advantage Lowe has over Burnett and Sheets is durability. He has made at least 32 starts every year since going from the bullpen to the rotation in 2002. His 3.24 ERA and 1.13 WHIP last season were his best numbers since 2003.