When it comes to matters of Derek Jeter, the Yankees and free agency, everyone seems to agree on one thing: it’s best that the negotiations do not turn ugly. Unfortunately, that may no longer be possible.
Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner told a New York-based radio station Tuesday that Jeter is wanted back, but also that he’s running a “business” and that the Yanks aren’t simply going to hand the 36-year-old shortstop a blank check because he’s loved and revered. It was a sensible comment, given that Jeter has fallen off considerably both on offense and defense and finished the 2010 season with an OPS of 710 — a good 127 points below his career average of 837.
Jeter knows that he’s not the player he once was and his agent, Casey Close, knows that just as well. But Close also knows that the Yankees will face a PR nightmare if they let their “captain” walk this winter and go with Eduardo Nunez at shortstop instead. There’s no denying that Jeter has major leverage in this situation and it certainly sounds like he plans to use it.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman heard from industry sources Wednesday that Jeter could be seeking a six-year contract that would take him into age 42. And now Jeter’s agent is telling AOL Fanhouse that his client’s value to the Yankees “cannot be overstated” and that “no athlete embodies the spirit of a champion more.”
Contract talks probably haven’t even started yet and the two sides are already battling it out publicly. Jeter wants to end his career in New York, the Yankees want him to end his career in New York, but there’s a clear disagreement as to how much he deserves to be paid over these final few years. And for how long he deserves to be paid.
Jeter isn’t going anywhere. He will be back with the Yankees in 2011 and for a few years beyond that, but the path toward a peaceful pact this winter looks to be a rocky one.