12/07/10 5:34 PM EST
Jeter happy with deal, displeased by process
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
As he spoke from behind a podium outside the Yankees' spring home, having agreed to a new three-year, $51 million contract that includes a player option for the 2014 season, Jeter remarked how odd it was to be welcomed back even though he'd technically never left.
"I never wanted to be a free agent," Jeter said. "I was pretty vocal about where I wanted to be. That never changed. I guess you could say I'm glad it's over."
But while Jeter expressed gratitude to the Steinbrenner family for his new deal and their continuing support, he also did not hide the fact that he had been stung by the public nature of the negotiations, during which Jeter said he had been portrayed as "greedy."
Jeter said that he had told his longtime agent, Casey Close, that he did not want to field offers from other teams, only wanting to finish his career wearing Yankees pinstripes. Jeter was irked and amused by reports suggesting that he had demanded a more lucrative contract.
"The perception was greed, when it's a negotiation," Jeter said. "I think it all started with my 'salary demands,' which still cracks me up. What position do I have to demand a salary? Give me this or what? Where am I going?"
But there were fewer laughs about the suggestion made by general manager Brian Cashman, who -- frustrated by the stalled negotiations -- urged Jeter and Close to test the free-agent market on Nov. 23 and see if there was a better deal out there.
"I was pretty angry about it, but I've let that be known," Jeter said. "I was angry about it, because I was the one that said I didn't want to do it. I was the one that said I wasn't going to do it.
"To hear the organization tell me to go 'Shop it' when I just told you I wasn't going to -- if I'm going to be honest with you, I was pretty angry about it."
Cashman said Tuesday that he understood, but he had felt it was necessary to respond after Close said he was "baffled" by the Yankees' positions. Cashman said he intended to speed up the negotiations by encouraging Jeter to find that there were no better offers.
"We resolved it. It just takes some time," Cashman said. "It is a family, and brothers and sisters can fight, but at the end of the day, you all get past it, because he's a Yankee. He's always been a Yankee and he'll finish up being a Yankee. That's the bottom line."
A pair of meetings were needed to repair the rift. Jeter and Close met face-to-face with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, Cashman and team president Randy Levine last week in Tampa.
Steinbrenner and Cashman also held a one-hour meeting with Jeter on Saturday in New York, expressing frustration at the media impact on the negotiations for both sides and eventually finding common ground.
"We were all upset and a little bit angry that it reached the level that it did," Steinbrenner said. "You've always got unnamed sources making this comment or that comment. That's what sells papers.
"But it was escalating, no doubt, which is why we sat down together again face-to-face and started hashing this thing out. It was a difficult three weeks, but we got it done. Everybody is ready to move on."
Cashman said it was Levine's idea to bridge the gap by adding a quirky fourth-year player option into a deal in which he will earn $15 million in 2011, $16 million in '12 and $17 million in '13 for a total of $48 million.
Two million of that will be deferred each year, according to The Associated Press, and if Jeter does not exercise his option for 2014, he would receive a $3 million buyout. The option begins at $8 million and could rise to $17 million based upon Jeter's performance.
"We spent a lot of time with Derek before this was done," Levine said in New York. "He was the usual high-level, integral person that he is. He comported himself with tremendous professionalism, in the spirit of what the captain of the Yankees truly is. I'm just so happy he's going to be here for three or hopefully four years, and I hope he makes every one of those incentives."
The option and incentives bumped the Yankees' original three-year, $45 million offer more into Jeter's arena, making the maximum value $65 million over four years. By then, the fourth year had become a priority for Jeter.
"The longer, the better, so you don't have to deal with this," Jeter said, gesturing to an outdoor tent packed with reporters. "You don't have to answer questions. The first time around, I didn't know what it was like.
"Now that I know what it's like, the fourth year was important. I don't have to be answering these questions for quite some time."
Former Yankees manager Joe Torre, whom Jeter considers a close friend and confidant, said Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., that he was pleased Jeter and his old club had finally worked it out.
"Both parties, I think, wanted the same thing," Torre said. "It came and went quick, which I think was important. Jeter, to me -- I'm a little partial -- knowing how he feels about the Yankees, I'm just glad it worked out for both."
Torre said that if there are any lingering feelings between Jeter and the Yankees as a result of the negotiations, Jeter would handle it professionally.
"I still ask Jeter about being hurt in 2001, and he won't own up to it," Torre said. "You can take from that whatever you want. He didn't say anything to me, but it doesn't surprise me, because he's pretty close to the vest in that regard."
Jeter, 36, is 74 hits from reaching 3,000 and has appeared in more Yankees victories (1,379) than any other player in franchise history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
An 11-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove Award winner, Jeter is also the Yankees' all-time leader in hits (2,926), at-bats (9,322) and singles (2,163), ranks second in games played (2,295), doubles (468) and stolen bases (323), and third in runs scored (1,685).
"He'll get back to what he does best, which is playing baseball for the one team he's always wanted to play for," Cashman said. "That's the real story here. He's going to finish his career as a Yankee, exactly where it should be. He's going to get his 3,000th hit with us, as it should be. And we hope he can win some more championships with us."
But Jeter also has something to prove. He is coming off a career-low .270 batting average and has fought diminishing defensive range that suggests he may no longer be the Yankees' shortstop in 2013 or '14, though manager Joe Girardi believes he can rebound and continue to be a top-of-the-order hitter.
"We'd like him to have a big season for us next year, score over 100 runs, hit .300 and just play great baseball," Girardi said. "That's what we expect from Derek every year. This year, when he didn't hit .300, we were all a little shocked."
Jeter will turn 37 in June, and during the negotiations, Cashman said that the organization does have concerns about his age and recent performance. Jeter said that he understands he will need to live up to the new contract and its expectations.
"You'd like to think that last year was a hiccup," Jeter said. "But it's my job to go out there and prove that it was. I understand any concerns that anyone has, especially talking about from an organizational standpoint. It's my job to go out and change that opinion."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.