With the announcement today that Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees have finally agreed on a new contract, the Yankees can turn their attention to their big offseason target—Cliff Lee.
There was never any doubt that Jeter would be returning to the Bronx, despite harsh statements from both sides and the Yankees' decision not to offer Jeter arbitration.
According to reports, Jeter has accepted a three-year contract worth around $51 million. The exact details of the deal aren't yet known, but an option for a fourth year at a reduced salary is probably included.
The deal would pay Jeter an average salary of $17 million, keeping him the highest paid shortstop in baseball (behind only the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki at $15.8 million per season).
So now that Jeter is back in pinstripes, which side really won the negotiations?
Jeter is staying put, will be paid less than last season and didn't get the six or seven-year contract he was reportedly seeking, so it's easy to say the Yankees got the better of the deal.
However, Jeter is only taking about a $2 million pay cut versus his previous average salary and the Yankees are still committing a huge amount to a player coming off the worst statistical season of his career—.270 batting average, 10 homers, 67 RBIs and an on base percentage of .340.
The Jeter negotiations were highlighted by strong words from both the Yankee brain trust and Jeter's agent, Casey Close.
After the Yankees' initial offer of three-years, $45 million, Close called the offer "baffling." The Yankees then said that Jeter and Close "needed to drink the reality potion."
Fans certainly were not happy with the direction the negotiations went from the start. Fearing their favorite shortstop could go elsewhere, many blamed the Yankees and cries of boycott could be heard on New York radio stations.
There are always two sides to every argument, and this was no different.
On the one side, Jeter is an aging shortstop incapable of putting up the All-Star numbers he was so famous for, and should be paid as such. On the other, Jeter is the heart and soul of the Yankees and his worth as the face of the franchise entitles him to a huge salary.
Based upon the Yankees' decision to increase their original offer, they finally realized they couldn't get away with not taking into account Jeter's off the field value. In this case, the new contract is a victory for Jeter.
While he didn't receive the long-term deal he wanted, he did win a small victory in the form of the Yankees increasing their offer.
There might not be any point in declaring a winner, but I proposed the question so it must be answered.
Jeter gets a new contract which keeps him very well paid (perhaps too well), and the Yankees save face by getting a deal done when things were looking bleak.
The Yankees have to be declared the winner though, simply because they were able to sign Jeter to a contract under their terms—no more than three years and a pay cut—and not Jeter's six years and $22-24 million per.
In the end though, the real winners are the fans.
They have their shortstop back, most likely for the rest of his career, and can now look forward to the Yankees signing a big free agent, most likely Cliff Lee.
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