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Jeter, Yankees negotiating again

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Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and co-owner Hal Steinbrenner met with Derek Jeter and Jeter's agent, Casey Close, on Tuesday in Tampa and it appears there's a detente and renewed optimism for a deal between the team and its iconic shortstop, perhaps even in coming days.

The Yankees are apparently willing to budge off their $45 million, three-year initial offer in an attempt to bring the iconic shortstop happily into the fold, though he's still going to have to accept a cut in salary to stay, he's been told, even from the $18.9 average annual value of his last contract. One person familiar with the Yankees thinking said the team might be willing to enhance its offer by a couple million dollars a year to bring the total to around $51 million for three years and perhaps even add an option year, though it isn't known whether that would be the Yankees' the final offer. It appears the Yankees don't want to go much above the $16-17 million range. Rockies star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's AAV on his 10-year deal is $15.7 million.

Jeter was believed to be seeking about $23 million for five years at one point, but it isn't known where he stands at the moment. Jeter's $189-milllion, 10-year deal expired after the year. The sides were engaged in a brief staredown for a few days when they seemed galaxies apart. But cooler heads appear to be prevailing.

The Yankees are endeavoring to bring the negotiations with Jeter to a close before moving on to their top outside target, 2008 AL Cy Young winner Cliff Lee.

The Jeter negotiations have been more protracted than expected, though Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner looks smart by predicting several weeks ago that things could get messy. The sides battled over what Jeter's value to the team is beyond the playing field, and even the $45-million offer made by the Yankees reflects an understanding that his presence goes well beyond his stats. Jeter had a down season in 2010, batting .270 and hitting 10 home runs. But he still made the All-Star team, scored 111 runs and won a Gold Glove.

Jeter has been expected to sign with the Yankees all along, as they need each other. Jeter is more valuable to the Yankees than any other team, and it was always difficult to imagine him leaving.

If Jeter were to leave the Yankees, one competing GM said, "That would be one of the biggest shocks I've ever seen in sports."