Tuesday, January 8, 2013 Updated: January 10, 4:21 PM ET
Captain at a contract crossroads
By Andrew Marchand ESPNNewYork.com
To quote a famous source from negotiations past, someone will have to take a swig from the "reality potion" at the end of 2013.
However Derek Jeter's season finishes, it will end with a contractual dilemma. The contentious negotiations from November of 2010 concluded with a three-year contract and a player option for Jeter. With the Captain regressing at the time, the $8 million option for 2014, plus incentives, seemed like a soft landing spot at the end of a legendary career.
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But a funny thing happened on the way to the old age home -- Jeter hit .316 and led the majors in hits in 2012.
If Jeter puts up similar numbers this year, it's unlikely he will accept the pay cut included in his current deal. Forget the Yankees' motto of $189 million or bust; Jeter, who will be 39 this June, will likely want an extension instead of dropping his wage to somewhere in the $9.5 million to $11 million range, depending on those incentives, for 2014.
With Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain set to be free agents, and with Hal Steinbrenner's payroll edict, every penny will count -- even the ones bestowed on future Hall of Famers.
Having to pay Jeter may give the front office headaches next winter, but the alternative is worse. If Jeter plays poorly, the Yankees will have to deal with an all-time great at the end of his road. They will have to figure out what to do with a player whose career has been built on belief. This trait guarantees Jeter will be the last to know when he is done.
Jeter will enter 2013 trying to bounce back after fracturing his ankle in Game 1 of the ALCS. Besides age, the injury increases the likelihood Jeter will be unable to match his 2012 success.
His offseason regimen has been impacted, which could result in Jeter finally surrendering to Father Time. In 2014, he might not be an everyday shortstop anymore, but he won't accept a demotion easily.
If Derek Jeter keeps hitting 'em where they ain't, he'll likely command superstar money again in 2014.
Neither Jeter nor the Yankees are quick to talk about what may lie ahead.
"I'm not getting into anyone's contract when there is a current contract in existence," Yankees GM Brian Cashman said this week. "There is no benefit in me even going there. I'm not going to."
Jeter's agent, Casey Close, told ESPNNewYork.com's Wallace Matthews, "We haven't even thought about that yet. Everything takes care of itself."
In the end, it likely will, but the past as prologue suggests it will be a bit bumpy. In 2001, Jeter clearly won negotiations by riding Alex Rodriguez's outrageous $252 million coattails with a 10-year, $189 million blockbuster of his own. Some Yankees officials felt they overpaid the Captain.
In 2010, Jeter had much less leverage, having hit just .270 combined with his diminishing range at short. There was so much trouble along the way that Cashman advised Jeter to see what the rest of baseball thought he was worth.
"We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account," Cashman said at the time. "We've encouraged him to test the market and see if there's something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That's the way it works."
Jeter grew more and more annoyed. His agent held back fire at first, but ultimately said Jeter should be paid for what he does both on and off the field.
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"There's a reason the Yankees themselves have stated Derek Jeter is their modern-day Babe Ruth," Close told the New York Daily News. "Derek's significance to the team is much more than just stats. And yet, the Yankees' negotiating strategy remains baffling. ... They continue to argue their points in the press and refuse to acknowledge Derek's total contribution to their franchise."
When the deal was finally reached, Jeter admitted to being angry.
"I'm going to be honest with you guys, the thing that bothered me the most was how public this became," Jeter said. "This was a negotiation that was supposed to be private. It was an uncomfortable position I felt I was in. It was not an enjoyable experience because throughout the years I've prided myself on keeping things out of the papers and out of the media. This turned into a big public thing. That is something I was not happy about. I let my feelings be known."
Jeter, perhaps unknowingly, has laid the groundwork to potentially go someplace else. In a Q&A with ESPN's Rick Reilly last season, Jeter was asked, "Peyton Manning changed teams this season after 14 seasons with one team. Could you see yourself doing that?"
Jeter responded, "Well, if I wanted to keep playing, yes. It's a business. People forget that."
After his response made headlines, Jeter played down his answer.
"I'm going to tell you guys what went down," Jeter said. "I was asked about Peyton Manning going from Indianapolis to Denver. The question was in reference to if the organization doesn't want you around anymore, do you still want to play? You have no choice but to go to another team. I think it is common sense."
With an injured ankle and an offseason relegated to a lot of sitting around, who knows how he returns in '13. But if Jeter continues to rack up the hits, does anyone see him taking a pay cut? On the other hand, if Jeter regresses and is no longer the same player, can the Yankees afford to keep him as their starting shortstop?
It is a business, after all.