It's long been said that laws and sausages are two things that you don't want to see getting made.
When all is said and done this winter, contracts for Derek Jeter at the age of 36 coming off of the worst season of his big league career are going to go right alongside those two things.
After the glories of Jeter's career, all anyone wanted to see happen this winter was both sides realize that staying together and staying happy is in both of their best interests. There's no need for the Yankees to deal with the PR fallout that comes from slapping Jeter around in public and there's no need for Jeter to hold up a team that's paid him more than fairly over the last 10 years. Just give a bit, smile for the cameras and everyone can just go back to worrying about landing Cliff Lee.
Alas, things won't go so smoothly and they won't be staying out of the limelight. Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com reports that Jeter is asking for at least four years, but prefers five or six, while the Yankees would be happy to give him a three-year deal at the same $21 million per year that he made in 2010. Matthews also quotes someone inside the Yankee organization who thinks it is time to put the screws to Jeter.
"Tell him the deal is three years at $15 million a year, take it or leave it. Wait him out and he'll wind up taking it. Where's he gonna go, Cincinnati?"
If this was going on in a vacuum, that would be about all you'd have to say to win the argument. The Yankees are already prepared to pay Jeter more and give him more years than any other team on the market, so it would seem difficult for Jeter to resist without coming off as a greedy, ungrateful player trying to wring out every last dime.
Jeter is Jeter, though, and that means things aren't quite so simple. A large portion of the Yankee customer base believes Jeter can do no wrong, on or off the field, and would find attempts to let the market sort this thing out as unthinkable. Jeter should be a Yankee for as long as he wants and get paid as much money as he wants.
After all, they'll argue, A-Rod is getting paid $25 million a year until he's 42. Jeter has meant more to the Yankees and better expemplifies what's great about the franchise, so he should get a deal that runs at least that long. Trying to explain to such people that A-Rod signed his contract when he was 32 and arguably the best player in the game while Jeter is turning 37 and coming off a terrible year is useless. Jeter is good, A-Rod is bad and it is ever thus.
Still, this is the best line for the Yankees to take. Jeter's side has argued that his value to the Yankees goes outside the lines and that he should be paid because of that and because of what he's already done for the Yankees. The flies in that ointment, however, is that the Yankees have already paid him for what he's done for the Yankees and that Jeter's value takes a huge hit without the pinstripes and the interlocking NY.
The Yankees are calling that bluff right now, which means the next move belongs to Jeter. Based on the way things have gone thus far, that response will be public and will have people wondering if this will ever get sorted out.
We remain confident that it will because neither side actually wants to end the relationship, but that doesn't mean it will be much fun watching them put it all together.