Derek Jeter will be back as a Yankee next season, and for more seasons after that. Of course he will. Doesn't matter whether he's hitting .264 today. Or .364. Or .164.
Jeter will be back with the Yankees because they want him back, he surely wants to be back and no other team will likely compete with the Yankees financially for him. Oh, there'll be interest in him as a free agent, all right. And while some teams may want to make a big splash with a monster Hall-of-Fame name, everyone assumes (and rightly so) that no one can beat the Yankees for Jeter.
"He's worth more to them than anyone else," one AL executive said.
Another AL exec, who agreed with that assessment, guessed Jeter's worth $12-to-$18 million over two years based on his current stats but speculated he could get maybe $30 million for three years from a team trying to make that splash (though, that exec honestly conceded he tends to guess low -- it is a management perspective, after all, and I would agree that that sounds a bit light).
The exec also said he could see the Yankees going to $45 million to $50 million over three years, in part because they can.
Fifty million over three years actually sounds like a very informed, reasonable current estimate for Jeter. But who knows? That still represents a pay cut from the average salary of $18.9 million of his current contract, and 2010 salary of $21 million.
If that sounds high, remember that Jeter is an alltime Yankee, the Yankees understand his place in the clubhouse and, more importantly, they know his place in Yankees lore. In no way do they want to risk him going elsewhere. The Yankees also recall that Jeter has gone to the mat with them on contract talks, beaten them in arbitration and once made an extra $70 million after George Steinbrenner nixed a $118.5-million deal that was nearly in place before he signed for $189 million a year later.
This won't necessarily go easily. But it will get done.
Yankees bosses view Jeter not just in terms of only his stats but in terms of history. There are no active peers in those categories. As a Yankee great, he now ranks somewhere in the group with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra.
The Yankees won't hand Jeter a blank check, but there's no chance the historic franchise is about to nickel and dime an icon, either. The Yankees are the one team that can afford to pay iconic players for their past greatness. They are also the one team that doesn't view all of its players though only a current business prism, and that's because the Yankees' business is so good it doesn't have to look at things the normal way. Jeter and Mariano Rivera are two such players.
Jeter's worst offensive season to date has to have some effect on the contract negotiations, though. It will mean he won't approach the original estimates of the contract. Of course, those were only estimates since no negotiations are known even now to have taken place (the policy is to wait, after all).
Early speculation (some of it here) had Jeter possibly trying for a contract that could keep him a Yankee until he's 42, like Alex Rodriguez. Others guessed that $100 million over four years could get it done, or maybe $125 million over five years, which is the very amount his agent Casey Close received for another of his famous clients -- Ryan Howard.
Ultimately, the Yankees' policy of waiting to re-sign all their uniformed personnel until the contracts expire, even in the cases of the important or even great Yankees, may wind up costing them a couple dollars with Rivera and manager Joe Girardi.
But it may actually save them money with Jeter.
The equations are fairly simple when it comes to Rivera and Girardi, though of course there will be some haggling, as always. Rivera is the greatest closer ever and with 29 saves in 31 chances and a 1.07 ERA, he's having one of his best years at age 40, but his term is likely limited by his age and position, and his dollars are limited to some degree by his position (even if he is the greatest reliever of alltime). Rivera is likely to get an incremental annual raise from the record-for-a-reliever $15 million he made the past three years.
Girardi has won one title since signing a three-year contract for $2.5 million a year, and he already appears to be using rumors of the Cubs' interest to his advantage (can't blame him for that). He's due for a nice raise, but like relievers, managers with the exception of Joe Torre's last Yankees contract fall within in a range, with the top guys usually topping out around $4 million, or maybe slightly higher. If Girardi seeks to repeat the Torre deal of $6-to-7 million, the Yankees won't re-sign him.
Girardi is doing an excellent job. But he isn't an alltime Yankee like Jeter, so reason will reign. Logical lines will be drawn.
Jeter is such a historical figure that normal market forces won't necessarily apply. While he won't get $125 million, or even $100 million, he'll still get plenty, and more with the Yankees than anyone else.
The Red Sox have difficult decisions with free agents ahead, as well. It is believed they'd like to keep Adrian Beltre, who's had a big season for them, and Victor Martinez, who's done a much better job defensively in recent weeks. It is unclear if they are willing to pay enough to keep both players, however.
Beltre took a deal for $9 million this year that included a player option for $5 million for next year, in effect betting on himself. And it looks like a big win, with him sure to decline the player option for 2011. While some might point out that his two best seasons came in walk years and maybe the Mariners didn't get their money's worth with their $64 million, five-year deal they gave him after the 2004 season, he has positioned himself nicely for this offseason by turning down a potential three-year deal with the A's last winter and then batting .322 with 26 home runs and 93 RBIs for the Red Sox. The Angels have been suggested most recently by the Boston Globe'sNick Cafardo to have been interested in Beltre for years and have an obvious need at third base.
The Red Sox probably would be willing to give Beltre a nice raise, but it wouldn't shock folks to see him want to repeat his Seattle deal (or even ask for more than that), and Boston isn't likely to be amenable to anything along those lines. Clearly, however, they understand a raise is in order for a consistent offensive performer who provides Gold Glove-caliber defense.
Martinez began the year so poorly defensively, it was questionable whether Boston would even want him back. But he has improved his throwing to the range of passable and is such a strong offensive player, they are believed to want to return him at the right price. Even serviceable defensive catchers who can hit are considered valuable, and Martinez, despite injuries, has batted .292 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs in his first full season for the Red Sox.
Martinez has said he'd like to return, and a raise from $7 million to $10 million a year seems reasonable. But when it comes to free agency, things can get very unpredictable.
Another interesting case is David Ortiz, who rebounded from an awful start to be a force in Boston's lineup again and now has 28 home runs and 87 RBIs. He has said he wants his $12.5-million option picked up. At this point, that seems a bit high based on what DHs like Vladimir Guerrero (one-year, $6.5 million from the Rangers) and Hideki Matsui (one-year, $6 million from the Angels) got last year, but Ortiz has had such a good year, and is so well-liked by players and fans, it could be tough for them to turn him down.
Some execs could see the Red Sox trying a two-year deal for slightly more than the $12.5 million option, maybe as much $18-20 million total. But the Red Sox wouldn't want to go too much above the $12.5 million total on a two-year deal. If Ortiz plays hardball, he could force Boston into a hard decision whether to just pick up the $12.5-million option. Either way, it may be even harder for Boston to just let him leave. While he isn't Jeter and the Red Sox aren't the Yankees, he means a lot to that franchise.
• The fate of Mets manager Jerry Manuel was probably sealed with two defeats in his old stomping ground of Chicago to the lowly Cubs. Manuel has handled his tough spot very professionally. But Wally Backman, who appears to be a candidate, seemed a bit anxious when he told the New York Post he's thinking about the job and feels he can do better. Bob Melvin and Bobby Valentine are also seen as candidates. Torre is an intriguing name but would seem to be a longer shot than Valentine as the Mets are planning to have a lot of young players in key roles and are said to be looking for a "high energy" guy. Melvin earlier looked like the favorite but that doesn't appear to be the case now.
• Mets GM Omar Minaya remains extremely likely to be re-assigned. There are rumors in the game that ex-Padres GM Kevin Towers could be in line for that job. But people inside the organization still see Towers winding up somewhere on the West Coast at some point and view John Ricco, currently the Mets assistant GM, as the most likely successor.
• Marlins interim manager Edwin Rodriguez has done a nice job, but they probably want someone more high-profile going into next year if they can.
• The Cardinals' rough ending now includes a public dispute, with the revelation via Albert Pujols that Colby Rasmus at some point wanted a trade. Pujols criticized Rasmus for not appreciating the Cardinals organization, while Rasmus tried his best to downplay the revelation. Tony La Russa has been portrayed as having a less-than-great relationship with Rasmus, who denied he asked for a trade. With the Cardinals playing below expectations, La Russa's return suddenly seems like less than a foregone conclusion.
• Buck Showalter's Orioles are one team that has truly played the spoiler already.
• The Padres have been a terrific story. And if they pull themselves together now and hang on, that would really be impressive. According to Stats Inc., only two playoff teams have ever lost 10 in a row.
• Fredi Gonzalez was already the overwhelming favorite for the Braves job. But word of the Cubs' serious interest only enhances his chances to replace Bobby Cox in Atlanta. Gonzalez lives year-round in Atlanta and spent years with the organization, so it would be an upset to see him go elsewhere.
• Ryne Sandberg, who has a reputation as a mild mannered guy, was ejected 20 times in his four years as minor-league manager with the Cubs, MLB.com revealed. On the plus side, he did win PCL Manager of the Year with the Iowa Cubs this year.
• Meanwhile, Cubs interim Mike Quade has started 9-4 there, which isn't too bad. Plus, according to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, GM Jim Hendry was impressed with how Quade effectively handled Starlin Castro making a mental mistake. Castro got a couple games off after forgetting the number of outs.
• Various outlets in Japan have been reporting different teams scouting pitching phenom Yu Darvish, who's said to be an even better prospect than Daisuke Matsuzaka was, reports Mike Silva of NYBD. The Yankees, Mets, Rangers and Rays are among many who have taken a peek.
• Ichiro, with 179 hits, will need to hustle to get to 200 again.
• When Lastings Milledge was traded from Washington to Pittsburgh for Nyjer Morgan, the Pirates were supposedly the ones gambling on a player with a character issue. But Morgan's the one who keeps getting in trouble. Three incidents were cited for his recent eight-game suspension, and none of them included bowling over Marlins catcher Brett Hayes and causing him to dislocate his shoulder when a customary feet-first slide would have resulted in Morgan being safe rather than out. That's on top of a seven-game suspension for allegedly throwing a ball at a fan. Morgan is a former hockey player.
• Alex Rodriguez's 13th straight season with 100 RBIs is truly incredible, considering he holds the record for 100 RBI seasons at 14. He has six years to go on his contract.
• The Pirates look like they have a prize in catcher-turned-second-baseman Neil Walker.
• The Nats have had their share of young phenoms this year, but shortstop Danny Espinosa's quick start of 9 for 16 with six extra base hits and 10 RBIs hasn't gotten much attention.
• Amazing that Mike Lowell has been playing with a fractured rib.
• Hard to imagine why Adam LaRoche (23, 89, .273) drew little interest in the trade market. Solid player.
• White Sox No. 1 draft choice Chris Sale, a left-hander, looks like the steal of the draft. He's throwing 99 mph in the majors.
• Rocco Baldelli, the one-time Rays phenom whose career was sidetracked by injury and illness, returned to the majors this week with Tampa Bay, an amazing story.
• The agenting business can be rough. Jayson Werth has left the Beverly Hills Sports Council on the cusp of free agency. The BHSC were his longtime reps. Meanwhile, the breakup of BHSC seems to have inspired a debate about poaching clients, understandably so, in the agent set. Agent Danny Lozano left BHSC and took Pujols, Michael Young, Jimmy Rollins and others with him.
• Rare to see a couple power hitters -- Josh Hamilton and Carlos Gonzalez -- leading their respective leagues in batting average. Hamilton is at .361, Gonzalez .337. CarGo has the best shot of anyone at the Triple Crown at the moment in a year when Pujols and Joey Votto are also threatening to win it.