Two Yankee greats approaching the latter years of their careers are free agents this year, and the Yankees would love to keep them around. Both of them want to be rewarded for their contributions to a rich and storied franchise. Mariano Rivera wants two years at $18 million per while Derek Jeter wants a negotiation that isn’t “baffling” and something more than three years at $15 million per. One of these future Hall of Famers have leverage; the other does not.
Jeter, as we’ve explored lately, is the one without the leverage. The Yankees, wary of his age and declining numbers, have offered him a three-year, $45-million contract, and although he wants more, he has no bargaining chips. The Mets, a potential landing spot with Jose Reyes seemingly on the block, are not interested, and George A. King III reported yesterday that few other teams are either.
According to King’s sources, Jeter isn’t drawing any other interest at his asking price. Most GMs recognize that Jeter wants to stay a Yankee and that the Yankees want Jeter to stay, and thus, no one is going to get into the bargains only with the intention of driving up Jeter’s price. “What he needs to happen, and it won’t, is for Boston to get in it to amp up the price,” one of King’s sources said. “But that’s not going to happen because he is an icon. And if they did that, Theo and Cashman would go to blows. There is nobody to drive the price up.”
While one of King’s AL sources says that the Orioles, Nationals, Cardinals or Giants “might” interest in Jeter, Derek’s return to New York is a matter of “when” and not “if.” Jeter and the Yanks will have to work this one out between themselves without the threat of another team. That is not what the Yanks are facing with Rivera.
So far, all we know about the Rivera negotiations are his demands. He wants two years at $18 million per, a figure that would make him the fifth — or sixth, once Cliff Lee signs — highest paid pitcher in baseball. That total would represent a raise of $3 million over his 2010 salary and would set the market for closers going forward. The Yankees have yet to respond to Rivera’s demands, but as Mark Feinsand reported yesterday, Mo would have suitors lining up for him if he can’t reach a deal with the Yankees.
“Jeter may not have many teams looking to pay him millions, but Rivera certainly will,” one of Feinsand’s sources said. “He’s still one of the best – if not the best – closers in the game.”
Unlike Jeter, Mariano’s numbers haven’t shown an obvious decline. His strike out totals dipped by nearly 3 Ks per 9 IP in 2010, but he notched 33 saves with a 1.80 ERA. He has been very public in his desires to reach 600 saves and could do so as a Yankee or not. With Rafael Soriano the only other big-name closer out there, teams looking for relief options would flock to Rivera.
And so the Yankees are in a bind. They don’t want to spend more than they have to on either player. If Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners had their druthers, Jeter would sign the deal offered to him and Rivera would take a one- or two-year contract at $15 million a year. But leverage is a tricky thing, and somehow they have to come to terms with one player who has it and one who doesn’t. A funny thing might happen on the way to Opening Day: Because of leverage, Mariano Rivera just might end up making more than Derek Jeter next year.