The contract negotiations between the Yankees and Derek Jeter have taken a decidedly acrimonious turn:
The Yankees have decided not to offer salary arbitration to shortstop Derek Jeter, according to two people in baseball briefed on the matter. The two spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to jeopardize their access to sensitive information.
Jeter would have received the right to accept a one-year contract from the Yankees and have an arbitrator rule on how much he would be paid.
If Jeter had declined arbitration, the Yankees would have received two draft picks if he signed elsewhere.
Jeter most likely would have received a one-year contract of more than $20 million, about $5 million more than the Yankees currently want to offer him.
Of perhaps most significance, Jeter would have become a free agent after next season and be right back where he is now, in what has become an awkward and contentious negotiation with the Yankees.
For that reason, arbitration would probably not have been attractive to Jeter either.
Jeter’s numbers on the field and at the plate weren’t great this year, but I’m with Tyler Kepner in not understanding at all what the Yankees management is thinking here:
To recap, from various news media forums: Steinbrenner emphasized that he was running a business, and warned that talks could get ugly. Close, Jeter’s agent, responded by saying his client’s value to the franchise “cannot be overstated.” The Yankees emphasized that they would value Jeter as a player, not a brand.
Close, normally quite reticent, then called the Yankees’ tactics baffling. The Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, fired back by saying he was concerned about Jeter’s age and declining performance.
Is it so hard for the Yankees to recognize that Jeter’s impact goes far beyond statistics? Is it that much of a blow to Jeter’s pride to admit that tying for the major league lead in outs, while playing a young man’s position at age 36, is a legitimate cause for concern?
The really baffling thing is that Jeter — through Close — has made his feelings public. For a decade, Jeter has stood apart from other players in that money has never been an issue. His expired 10-year, $189 million deal had no opt-out dates or escalator clauses. He has always been well paid, without carrying Rodriguez’s burden of being the game’s richest player.
As it turns out, it was naïve to think of Jeter as above the fray. The same competitiveness that drives him on the field, it seems, has carried over to his off-field priorities. That is probably why so many athletes strive to make money they will never be able to spend. They are intensely competitive, and — in an equation that is hardly unique to sports — money equals respect.
It still seems that the sides will resolve this, in time. When they do, Jeter can deflect all the rhetoric by saying his agent was simply doing his job.
I hope Kneper is right. Numbers aside, Jeter has been an indepensible member of the Yankees for fourteen seasons now and the idea of him finishing his career in another uniform just isn’t right.
Fix this one, guys.