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Performance Vs. Persona Make This A Difficult Deal

If reports are correct the negotiations between Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees are headed down a difficult path — something you have to be sure neither side really wanted.

The official line from the Yankees is that the negotiation is proceeding as all negotiations do, at its own pace and with its own unique potholes and sticking points.

“Derek Jeter is a great Yankee and he’s a great player,” said Levine. “With that said and done, now is a different negotiation than 10 years ago.”

That last statement is open to many interpretations, but its essential meaning seems pretty clear. Jeter is 10 years older than he was when he signed that $189 million contract from The Boss following a triumphant 2000 World Series in which the Yankees beat the Mets and Jeter was voted the Series MVP.

He is not, however, 10 years better. His best playing days are behind him and his inevitable decline has probably begun. He will turn 37 before the 2011 All-Star break, older than any other starting shortstop in the league, and despite winning the Gold Glove at his position for the 2010 season, he has clearly lost significant range in the field.

And his bat, always reliable, fell off 44 points from his career average of .314, and 64 points off his transcendent 2009 season, when he hit .334.

He earned $21 million last season, but at this stage of his career, he is a $21 million player by reputation only. Still, the source said the Yankees are willing to keep him at that level for three more years, if only out of loyalty and gratitude for past favors.

Indications are that the Yankees would be willing to give him that $21 million salary, provided Jeter is willing to accept a three-year contract. At 36, with an aging roster and looking at a player whose offensive performance slid sharply in 2010 the Yankees understandably want to make a sound baseball decision. At least in terms of the number of years they guarantee the iconic shortstop.

Jeter reportedly wants anywhere from four to six years. He still wants the big money, too. A discount to make sure he finishes his storied career in pinstripes? it doesn’t sound like that is part of Jeter’s plan.

It also doesn’t sound like the Yankees plan to open the vault simply because this is Jeter we are talking about.

“He’s a baseball player, and this is a player negotiation. Everything he is and who he is gets factored in. But this isn’t a licensing deal or a commercial rights deal, he’s a baseball player,” Randy Levine said. “With that said, you can’t take away from who he is. He brings a lot to the organization. And we bring a lot to him.”

So, there you have it. Question is, who will blink first?