Derek Jeter is one of the classiest guys in the Major Leagues and will go down as one of the best Yankees players in the history of the team.
With manager Joe Girardi's contract figured out after he signed a three-year deal worth around $9 million it is now Jeter who will be the primary focus of the team. Brian Cashman knows he's in for a delicate negotiation, but he needs to be sure Jeter signs on the Yankees' terms.
Cashman is not afraid to make the tough decisions as he showed no mercy when he offered Bernie Williams a non-roster spring training invite. Williams looked at the offer as an insult and did not accept. Williams was one of the best center fielders in the game during his time along with his offensive output as a switch-hitter, yet there was Cashman making the cold-blooded decision.
When it came time to offer Joe Torre a new contract Cashman offered him one with incentives. It was an offer Torre found insulting as it required him to take a pay cut and earn incentives the deeper the Yankees played into the postseason. It was an offer he felt he had to refuse.
Now with Jeter a free agent Cashman has to continue to keep emotions out of the negotiating table. Cashman and most Yankees fans know what Jeter means to the franchise. Unlike some superstars who make their teams worry at night, the Yankees never worry about what Jeter is doing.
He has been one of the most marketable players in the history of the team. There are people who are Yankees fans just because of the way Jeter plays the game.
He was quoted numerous times about why he hustles on every single play. Jeter said there is always one person in the stands who is there to watch him and he feels it's important to show that person he put all his effort into every game.
And if you watch the Yankees you can tell Jeter plays with his heart and soul. People applaud the way he runs out a routine ground ball to the shortstop, but why? Aren't batters supposed to run everything out? The answer is yes, but most Major Leaguers don't and Jeter is the exception to the rule.
The hustling he puts forth shows up in his career stats. When you look at the back of the baseball card some people may be amazed at what they see. Jeter has accumulated 2,926 hits in his time in the big leagues to go along with his .314 career batting average.
He is quickly rising past the greatest players who have ever donned pinstripes, thereby going past some of the game's greats. He has passed Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during the past two seasons. He holds the record for most hits in the postseason as well as extra-base hits.
This season, however, we witnessed the beginning of the decline for a living legend. We saw Jeter no longer able to cover as much ground as we have become accustomed to. We saw Jeter flailing at pitches he once was able to hit.
We witnessed Jeter ground into plenty of double plays because of him losing a step or two in the speed department. We witnessed Jeter's power disappear and all this added to a career-low .270 average.
The question becomes what do the Yankees offer to a 36-year-old shortstop who is the face of the franchise, yet is heading downhill? Do you overpay for the appreciation of what he has done for the organization or do you play hardball?
The answer to this writer is in between. Cashman should not have to spend $23 million for a shortstop who is not producing at the level he should be. Instead Cashman should only offer $15 million per year for three years.
There is no team out there willing to come even close to shelling out that much money for a 36-year-old shortstop, so it's not like Jeter will have anywhere else to go. It should also occur to Cashman to discuss the possibility of having Jeter change positions if it is deemed necessary.
Last, but not least, a personal services contract should be added to keep Jeter around the organization he helped build back into prominence.
Jeter is one of the greatest Yankees of all time, but he needs to be reasonable at the negotiating table and realize his play slipped and with it comes a pay cut.