The Ultimate Chess Match
The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” may never be more applicable than with the photo to the right. In one of the most awkward contract negotiations in recent baseball history, between Derek Jeter, agent Casey Close, and the New York Yankees, it is not clear yet which side will emerge victorious. What we do know is that the Yankees front office has finally drawn a line in the sand. Despite everything Derek Jeter has done for the Yankees and the city of New York, Yankee GM Brian Cashman is not letting the past alter his plans for the future. The Yankees are reportedly offering Jeter a 3 year, $45 million deal that would keep the Yankee legend in pinstripes until he is 39 years old. In terms of his production value, $15 million is extremely generous for an aging .270 hitter, but when coupled with the fact that Derek Jeter is the captain and image of the country’s most successful sports franchise, the offer seems more than fair. Not so fast though, says Casey Close. Camp Jeter is reportedly looking for a 4-6 year deal in the ballpark of $18-20 million per year.
This is such an interesting negotiation, because it’s not entirely clear as to who holds the leverage. As much as Derek Jeter needs the Yankees, the Yankees need Derek Jeter. They are a couple that is never meant to be split. How would Yankees fans react to someone other than #2 at shortstop? Would they become restless and angered if the Yankees extended Jeter a 6 year deal and his offensive numbers and defensive range continued to diminish? What is more fascinating is that the Yankees are historically known for overpaying in free agency to get what they want, yet when they now deal with their most important player in the last 2 decades, something has obviously changed. My answer: The death of George Steinbrenner. There is no doubt in my mind that if the boss were still alive, Jeter would be getting a deal that favors his demands (5 year $100 million deal). With the Steinbrenner boys now running things, it is apparent that there is a new aura about the Yankees, especially when it comes to contract negotiations with their players. I think this negotiation is meant to set a precedent for the future in the new Yankee management system. They live in the present, not in the past, and as Hank Steinbrenner recently stated, “I don’t feel we owe anyone anything monetarily.” When the day does finally come when the core four (Jeter, Rivera, Pettite and Posada) all hang up the cleats and call it quits, the final piece of George’s Yankees will officially be gone, and the days of 10 year A-Rod/Jeter mega deals will be long gone.
Yankee fans do not worry; Derek Jeter will be in pinstripes next season. It’s a question of which side will budge first, and quite honestly, I wouldn’t test Hank and Hal Steinbrenner right now. They seem to be on a mission to make a point very clear to the players, media and fans: Drink the reality potion Derek Jeter, you’ll get what you deserve and not what you demand.