When an aging superstar who’s the face of one of the most successful and storied franchises in professional sports has a contract come to an end, and both parties would like to renew that pact, you’d think that the negotiations would be quick, painless, and anything but messy.
That has not been so with the New York Yankees and shortstop Derek Jeter, however. Before this off season, the negotiations that were bound to take place between Jeter’s agent, Casey Close and GM Brian Cashman would’ve been predicted to be possibly the quietest and quickest of the entire year. These negotiations, however, have been anything but.
The Yankees offered Jeter, who is coming off a 10-year, $189 million contract, a three-year deal worth $15 million per year. Jeter, however, is believed to be looking for something along the lines of a four-year contract worth around $20 million per year.
That’s quite a difference between the two sides.
It’s easy to see why the Yankees don’t want to pay Jeter $80 million, and to be locked down to him until after his 40th birthday. Jeter, 36, is coming off of his worst offensive season since becoming a starter in 1996. In 2010, Jeter hit .270 with a .340 OBP, which was significantly below his career mark, a .385 OBP. In addition, Jeter’s slugging percentage was down to .370, while his career slugging percentage sits at .452. Those are certainly not encouraging signs for an aging infielder whose defense is already below par. Jeter has relied on his excellent offense, which has overshadowed his shortcomings on defense for years. Now, though, it seems that his offense is slipping.
The Yankees understand that it’s important to keep Jeter. Could they go on without him? Sure they can. Do they want to? Absolutely not. Although Jeter’s numbers were down across the board in 2010, it’s likely that it was more of a down year than a significant decline in his skills. He may not duplicate his superb 2009 season (or any one of the fantastic years before that, for that matter) again, but he’s certainly a serviceable shortstop who has also served as a clubhouse leader, model veteran, and the face of the New York Yankees franchise for the last decade and a half.
So why is Jeter demanding so much? After all, he’s got to know that there aren’t any other teams out there who would be willing to pay him $80 million over four years.
Maybe he feels like the Yankees owe it to him, after all he’s done and all he’s helped bring to the franchise. Maybe he felt like the Yankees would cave to his demands because, after all, he is Derek Jeter.
But the Yankees and Brian Cashman have not given in.
Maybe Cashman and the Yankee front office thought Jeter would quietly give in and accept their offer.
He did not.
It’s probable that in the end, it will be the years and not the dollars that will be the main sticking point. Jeter wants more than three years, and the Yankees don’t want any part of that commitment.
Are the Yankees prepared to go on with life without that familiar #2 batting leadoff and playing short? And is Derek Jeter really ready to put away that Yankee cap, to suit up for a team other than the only one he’s ever known?
This is going to come down to egos. Who will give in, and how much will they give? The Yankees need Jeter, whether they want to admit it or not. And Jeter needs New York, as much as he and his agent pretend that there’s a big market for his services.
One of these two sides will eventually have to give in, but only time will tell as to which one it will be. Seeing Derek Jeter in any other uniform would just feel dirty, regardless of whether you love or hate the Yankees.