Lowe now cream of remaining crop

Lowe now cream of remaining crop

NEW YORK -- Derek Lowe's turn as the most coveted starting pitcher on the free-agent market arrived Friday, as word spread of A.J. Burnett's decision to agree to terms on a five-year, $82.5 million contract with the Yankees.

Even moreso than the inking of CC Sabathia two days earlier, Burnett's decision to follow the pinstriped path will help to clear a muddied picture for Lowe, a 35-year-old sinkerballer who has been pursued most heavily by the Bombers and Phillies.

After committing a combined $243.5 million to Sabathia and Burnett, the Yankees' resources remain to consider adding Lowe to their rotation as well, though the urgency is diminished somewhat by their early success on the open market.

If anything, Lowe's reported intentions of seeking a five-year deal in the $80 million range will only be buoyed by the disappearance of both hurlers from the available pack as they prepare to relocate to New York.

With a resume of postseason success and a durable reputation, Lowe is one of the better options available this winter. But he also comes armed with the forces of the Scott Boras agency, which ensure two things -- the process will take some time, and Lowe's bank account will be quite healthy by the end of it.

Sources close to Lowe have mentioned that he holds the idea of rejoining the Red Sox with some appeal, though their interest has been muted because general manager Theo Epstein's focus is on Mark Teixeira. That could change now.

"He has serious interest from a lot of teams, and we're marching through them," Boras said Wednesday. "His performance in postseasons adds to his appeal not only for the Yankees, but other teams as well. He's looking for a contending club, but certainly a number of [interested] teams fill that bill."

One place Lowe will not wind up is Atlanta, even though the Braves struck out on wooing Burnett. Braves GM Frank Wren has made it known that he will not pursue Lowe, even at the possibility that the division rival Phillies are now Lowe's most motivated suitor.

Last week, Lowe spoke about the opportunity to add to his list of postseason experiences as a major factor in deciding on a destination. Surely, the Yankees' dreams for '09 lead to October, and no one has forgotten that the scent of champagne is stained into the carpet of the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.

"With me, it's all about winning," Lowe said. "The team with the best chance of winning, year in and year out, is where I want to go. Scott understands that. I've already had clubs contact us that are interested, but they're not ready to win.

Hot Stove

"Scott knows that's my No. 1 priority, and he's looking out for my best interest. He's done exactly what I've been talking about."

Philadelphia general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. confirmed that his club has engaged with Lowe and Boras, but declined to comment on the reported asking price. He also noted that signing Lowe could halt the Phillies from executing other moves.

"We've talked to Lowe, we've talked to his representative," Amaro said this week. "I can't characterize that discussion and where we stand on it. We like Derek Lowe and we like a variety of pitchers out there. He's not the only guy we like."

As for the Yankees, a source said New York still could try for Lowe, even though the top three starters in their rotation are set with Sabathia, Burnett and Chien-Ming Wang.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman appears to be leaving the light on for Andy Pettitte, however, which would block out New York's rotation at five pitchers with young Joba Chamberlain also set to start.

The Mets had also shown some level of interest in Lowe, but they have been occupied with restocking a bullpen that appears much improved after tacking on both Francisco Rodriguez and J.J. Putz in a busy session.

"I'm probably not going to be in there right now, financially," Mets general manager Omar Minaya said. "Not after spending all the money that I did on K-Rod."

One thing that appears certain is that Lowe will not be back in Los Angeles come April. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said that he is prepared to move on without Lowe in the fold, saying, "I don't believe Derek Lowe will pitch for the Dodgers next year."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Ken Gurnick and Barry M. Bloom contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.