The last thing the New York Yankees want is a messy free-agent negotiation with iconic shortstop Derek Jeter. Apparently, though, that is exactly what they could get.
Most reports indicate that the Yankees, who Hal Steinbrenner emphatically said Wednesday are "running a business here," are likely to offer Jeter a 2- to 3-year contract. SI.com's Jon Heyman has reported that Jeter is looking for a six-year deal. Yikes! That would mean signing the 36-year-old Jeter to a deal that would take him to age 42.
Jeter's agent, Casey Close, made it obvious Wednesday that Jeter is seeking a big contract, advancing age and declining skills not withstanding.
"While it is not our intent to negotiate the terms of Derek's free-agent contract in a public forum," Casey Close told FanHouse, "we do agree with Hal's and Brian (Cashman, the GM)'s recent comments that this contract is about business and winning championships.
"Clearly, baseball is a business, and Derek's impact on the sport's most valuable franchise cannot be overstated. Moreover, no athlete embodies the spirit of a champion more than Derek Jeter."
Jeter's 10-year, $189 million contract has run its course. It is clear that signing him to a workable deal without insulting the Yankee Captain is not going to be easy.
Jeter's on-field performance in 2010 does not help his bargaining position. He had career lows is several offensive categories this season -- a .270 batting average, .340 on-base percentage, .370 slugging percentage an .710 OPS. All of those numbers are well below his career average.
Jeter will be trying to sell the Yankees on what he has meant, and still means, to the franchise. On the five championships he has been a major contributor to. On the fact that he is closing in on becoming the first player in the history of the franchise to reach 3,000 hits, a plateau he will reach next season if he is healthy. He has 2,926. On the fact that HE IS DEREK JETER, face of the franchise.
This is a case where winning, and the Yankees' expectation of being in the hunt for a championship every season, may actually hurt them. Some franchises would overpay a declining player simply to keep him around, honor his career achievements, and hope he still puts fans in the stands as he surpasses individual career milestones.
The Yankees will, of course, consider that. Bottom line for Steinbrenner, Brian Cashman and Co., though, is winning. Derek Jeter has been the ultimate winner throughout his career. What the Yankees have to decide is how much longer he can be that guy. And how much that is worth to them.