NEW YORK -- The recruitment of Cliff Lee to the Bronx isn't limited to just the Yankees' brass, or even the franchise's big-name players. It turns out the wives may be in on the process, too.
Take CC Sabathia's, for example. Amber Sabathia and Kristen Lee, good friends since the days their husbands were teammates in Cleveland, constantly keep in touch. And though Amber tries to give the couple its space -- knowing full well what the free-agency process is like after going through it two years ago -- she does drop in her own sales pitches from time to time.
"I tell her I have her house right down the street," Amber said with a smile, even though she wasn't kidding.
"I would love for them to come," she added. "I think he would be great for the team, but their family is also great. He's a great family man, they have two children that are around the same age as our children, so I think it'd be great."
Her husband thinks so, too. But he's a little more subtle in his approach, it seems.
"I went through this process two years ago, and if somebody was calling me every 10 minutes, hounding me -- 'What's going on, what are you going to do?' -- it would just kind of mess up the friendship," said Sabathia, adding that he doesn't know where Lee is leaning one way or the other. "So I'm giving him the space. He'll text me and ask questions, and we'll talk. But it's a decision that he has to make for him and his family. I know coming here would be great, because we'd have a chance to win championships every year, but we'll have to wait and see."
While waiting, Sabathia was giving back on Thursday night. The Yankees' ace left-hander made an appearance at the Payless ShoeSource on Fifth Avenue and 39th Street, where he distributed free shoes to Bronx inner-city kids while representing his PitCCh In Foundation and taking part in the Payless Shoes 4 Kids program.
While there, Sabathia reaffirmed his desire to stay in this community.
Because of the monster deal Lee is expected to yield from free agency -- be it from the Yankees, or the Rangers, or anybody else -- some have wondered whether Sabathia would opt out from his contract early to sign a new, more-lucrative deal, like Alex Rodriguez did after the 2007 season.
Sabathia, who agreed on a seven-year, $160 million contract in December 2008, is signed through '15 but has the right to opt out after the 2011 campaign. As of now, Sabathia is saying that won't happen.
"I've always said my stance is I'll be here," the 30-year-old said. "That's been from Day 1. My family is here, we moved here. As you can see, we're trying to reach out to the community by doing stuff like this. So we plan on being here."
That means many games against a rejuvenated Red Sox team, one that made a big splash by trading for slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez less than a week ago, then made a bigger one by coming out of nowhere to sign speedy left fielder Carl Crawford to a seven-year, $142 million contract.
That made Sabathia 0-for-1 as a recruit this offseason.
Crawford is another good friend of Sabathia's, and the Yankees' pitcher said he had tried to sell Crawford on New York in the past -- but not since early in the 2010 season.
"I'm happy for Carl," Sabathia said. "They have a great team. Carl is one of my friends. They have a really, really good team now. It's going to be a battle."
To prepare for that battle, many have said the Yankees need to counterattack, and that it has to come in the form of reeling in Lee -- who could be very close to making his decision.
The Rangers met with him once again in Arkansas on Thursday and expect to find out soon if they remain in the running, while the Yankees have reportedly extended their offer to seven years, which could be a key turning point in the negotiations.
Don't expect a last-minute sales pitch from Sabathia, though.
"I haven't said anything this offseason," said Lee's teammate with the Indians from 2002-08. "We talk, you know. ... It's a friendship, so we have different conversations about different things. He knows it would be great for us to play together again, but like I said, you can't pressure anybody into that decision or try to make up their mind for them. It's a lifestyle change, and it's something that he has to feel comfortable with making the decision."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Gonzo and 'The Show'. Follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.