Nothing has changed for Derek Jeter and the Yankees. Jeter is still a free agent, the Yankees are still without a proven alternative at shortstop, and the Jeter story continues to dominate the headlines.
Today, the big number is $150 million. That’s what Bill Madden says Jeter was looking for at the beginning of this mess. That’s a six-year deal worth $25 million per season.
It’s a number that’s hard to defend — and I would never suggest the Yankees should sign him to such a deal — but it’s also a number that’s hard to put into context.
It could have been a negotiation stance, a number meant to send a message without being seriously considered. Maybe it was a publicity ploy, a number made public to try to sway opinion. Maybe that number was never even introduced in the actual negotiations. Maybe it’s what Jeter believes he’s worth at this stage of his career.
We’re dealing with such huge amounts of money that the players always seem like bad guys in these situations. Truth is, this is their world. This kind of money flows through baseball, and it has to go somewhere. Hank Steinbrenner is right, the Yankees already made Jeter very, very rich, but Jeter lived up to his previous contract. He did all the Yankees could have asked on the field and off. Name another player who had a 10-year deal that never became a significant drain on the team.
During that time, Jeter watched the Yankees hand out bad contract after bad contract. Brian Cashman has understandably tried to end that free-spending approach — it was unsustainable at best, irresponsible at worst — but it must strike Jeter as odd that when it’s his turn to be paid again, the well is suddenly running dry. He knows what kind of money is out there, and it’s hard to blame the guy for wanting a significant chunk of it. What he’s worth depends on who you compare him to, and what you expect from him.
This negotiation is about ego, age, statistics, legacy, publicity, competition, history, money. It’s about the future of a baseball team and the future of a iconic player.
It’s never going to be as simple as comparing a set of numbers on a piece of paper.
Associated Press photo