A ‘messy’ negotiation takes a turn for the worse

Derek Jeter and the Yanks are swinging at air right now. (AP Photo, Kathy Willens)

When the Hot Stove League officially kicked off on November 2, Hal Steinbrenner took to the AM airwaves to discuss the Yanks’ off-season plans. In doing so, he warned that the upcoming negotiations between Derek Jeter and his long-time employer would not be for the faint of heart. “There’s always the possibility that things could get messy,” he said to Michael Kay.

Three weeks later, the relationship between the Yankees and their captain has gotten very, very messy indeed. Since the start, the Yankees have toed the line. “I want to get a deal done that he’s happy with but also that I’m happy with,” Hal Steinbrenner said in early November.

Since then, the Yankees have extended Jeter at least one contract offer. The team hasn’t confirmed the dollar amount, but the club is reported to have given Jeter’s camp a three-year, $45-million offer. Things took a turn for the worse when Jeter’s agent Casey Close took exception to the offer and the subsequent reports of an emerging hard line.

“Derek Jeter is a great Yankee and he’s a great player. With that said and done, now is a different negotiation than 10 years ago,” Randy Levine said last week. “He’s a baseball player, and this is a player negotiation. Everything he is and who he is gets factored in. But this isn’t a licensing deal or a commercial rights deal, he’s a baseball player. With that said, you can’t take away from who he is. He brings a lot to the organization. And we bring a lot to him.”

Close called the Yanks’ stance “baffling” as anonymous sources said that Jeter wanted a five- or six-year deal. Jeter wants to keep pace with A-Rod, but the Yanks don’t want to make the same contract mistake twice. Close expressed dismay the Yanks would be so public in their comments, and Jeter confidantes later said the two sides are “not even in the same ballpark.”

Today, the Yankees swung back and hard. George A. King III spoke to Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman. “There is nothing baffling about our position,” Cashman said. “We have been very honest and direct with them, not through the press. We feel our offer is appropriate and fair. We appreciate the contributions Derek has made to our organization and we have made it clear to them. Our primary focus is his on-the-field performance the last couple of years in conjunction with his age, and we have some concerns in that area that need to be addressed in a multiyear deal going forward.”

To quell doubts, the Yanks, Cashman said, still want Jeter around: “I restate Derek Jeter is the best shortstop for this franchise as we move forward. The difficulty is finding out what is fair between both sides.”

Later in the day, Cashman elaborated in an interview with Wallace Matthews. The team, he says, has made a “fair and appropriate” offer to Jeter. “We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account,” the GM said. “We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.” He later added, “We want to be treated fairly. We’re not just going to write a blank check.”

Matthews, who says that Jeter wants 4-6 years at $20 million per, had more:

“We believe that Derek Jeter is the best person to play shortstop for this franchise moving forward,” Cashman said. “Do we want to lose Derek Jeter? No. Do we want to treat Derek Jeter fair? Absolutely. Do we want to be treated fair at the same time? No question about it.”

“We’re going to do everything we possibly can to put the best winning team on the field,” Cashman added. “We feel Derek Jeter gives us the best chance to win. But we’re not dealing with Derek alone. We’re dealing with our closer, we’re trying to add to our club, and if putting all out eggs into one basket takes away from our ability to add to our club, I ain’t gonna do it.”

Asked if there was any chance the negotiation could fall apart and Jeter could somehow wind up in a different uniform next year, Cashman said, “Not from us. We would like Derek Jeter to be a Yankee and we’re making our best efforts to keep that in play. But it takes two.”

The Yankees are pressing and hard right now on Jeter. They know his leverage is at an all-time low, and they know what they want to pay Jeter. Derek has spent his Yankee career being the opposite of controversial. He never says anything; he never finds himself in a scandal; and he is exceptional at toeing the Steinbrenner party line. He has been the model employee, but at age 36 and coming off of his worst offensive season, being steadfast in your devotion only earns you so many dollars above market value.

Soon though he’ll have to respond with something more than the word “baffling” because the Yanks, as Tyler Kepner wrote today, certainly don’t think these negotiations are baffling. If anything, the club has a plan and they are, in spite of mounting public criticism, sticking with it. Right now, the onus is on Jeter to work this out, and all indications are that the Yanks aren’t through negotiation. The club, Jon Heyman said earlier before rescinding his statement, may bump up the three-year, $45-million, if they haven’t done so already, but if that isn’t enough, he can indeed try the open market.

“He should be nothing but a New York Yankee,” Cashman said, “if he chooses to be.”

Open Thread: From Baseball to Football (and a Lee update)

That up there is a time lapse video of the transformation Yankee Stadium underwent earlier this month in preparation for last weekend’s Army-Notre Dame game and next month’s Pinstripe Bowl. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff, so I’m passing it along. Thanks to Rob for the heads up about the video.

Once you’re done checking that out, use this as your open thread. Both the Knicks and Nets are in action in an otherwise dull spots night. Chat about whatever you like – the free agent market certainly picked up today – so have at it.

Update: Yanks have yet to make any offer to Lee

Meanwhile Mark Feinsand has an update to a rumor we deemed a bit unreliable this morning. Ostensibly, the Yanks had extended a six-year, $140-million contract to Cliff Lee, but Mark Feinsand’s sources say this rumor is “not accurate.” In fact, says Feinsand’s sources, “the Yankees have not made an offer to Lee yet.” The Cliff Lee situation is likely to be unresolved until the winter meetings after Thanksgiving.

Update: Vazquez to receive Yanks’ only arb offer

Contrary to initial reports, the Yankees will offer arbitration only to Javier Vazquez ahead of this evening’s midnight deadline. We had originally heard that the Yanks planned to offer it to Kerry Wood as well. The decision not to offer arbitration to Wood belies the Yanks’ concerns that he would have accepted and thus would earn far more than the team wants to pay their set-up man. Vazquez is expected to decline the offer, and the Yanks will recoup a supplemental first-round pick when he signs with another team this winter. The Yankees have declined to offer arbitration to Lance Berkman, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, but under the 2007 CBA, the club can continue to negotiation with any or all of their own free agents.

The RAB Radio Show: November 23, 2010

It feels as though the Yankees wanted to hear Mike and I talk longer, because they dumped a ton of news on us today.

First up: MVP. What Cano got, what he didn’t get, why he didn’t deserve to win, but why he also should be proud of his finish. There could be greater things in Mr. Cano’s future.

Then we move onto arbitration. We know that they will extend offers to Kerry Wood and Javy Vazquez, and that Javy has agreed to decline. From what Cashman said I presume Wood will accept. That’s good news for the 2011 bullpen, but not for the 2011 payroll.

Six years and $140 million for Cliff Lee? I thought the Yanks would get there, but there is a report that it’s already on the table. Is this just a garbled game of telephone, or are the Yankees trying to get all their affairs in order with a time-sensitive offer?

Podcast run time 43:02

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Davidoff: Pettitte ‘leaning toward’ pitching in 2011

Andy Pettitte is “leaning toward” pitching for the Yankees in 2011, Ken Davidoff just reported via Twitter. According to his industry source, the Yanks’ lefty will re-up with the team for one more year, thus solidifying the Yanks’ starting rotation. Earlier this month, Pettitte told reporters that, if he returned for 2011, it would be his final season. With Pettitte now likely to return, the Yanks must fill only one open rotation spot instead of two. This new-found leverage, however, does not mean the club is likely to reduce its offer to Cliff Lee.

Wood, Vazquez to be offered arbitration; Javy to reject

This is certainly unexpected. ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews reports that the Yankees will offer arbitration to Kerry Wood and Javier Vazquez. While the Vazquez news comes from a source of Jayson Stark’s, the decision on Wood comes right from Cashman: “I’m thinking yes on Wood. We’ll do them a favor. If we put them into an arbitration setting, then we can take them out and make a fair market value offer to them.”

Updated (2:49 p.m. by Ben): Here’s an interesting twist on this deal: Ken Rosenthal reports that Javier Vazquez has agreed to reject the Yanks’ arbitration offer. In doing so, the Yanks will earn a supplemental first-round draft pick. “Teams frequently make such gentlemen’s agreements with Type B free agents,” Rosenthal said. “No harm is done to the signing team, which does not lose a pick for signing a Type B player.” As I predicted yesterday, the Yanks are doing their best to salvage the Javier Vazquez deal.

Josh Hamilton takes home AL MVP Award

Josh Hamilton was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player today, receiving 21 of 28 first place votes. Robbie Cano placed third, not too far behind runner-up Miguel Cabrera. He did not receive any first place votes. There’s no shame in that, Robbie had a great season and just being mentioned as an MVP is a success all by itself. Jose Bautista and Paul Konerko round out the top five.

Hamilton hit .359/.411/.633 (.447) this season and was particularly harsh of right-handed pitchers, tagging them for a .401/.447/.716 batting line (.490 wOBA) in a not insignificant 352 plate appearances. His 8.0 fWAR led all of baseball even though he missed much of September with rib issues. Congrats to him, it’s well deserved.

CC Sabathia finished 13th, Alex Rodriguez 15th, and Mark Teixeira 20th in the voting.