NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's agent has fired back at the Yankees, saying that Jeter's value to the Yankees "cannot be overstated."
Jeter's agent, Casey Close, made his statements Wednesday in response to the public posturing by the Yankees. Tuesday on 1050 ESPN New York, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner said that the team wants Jeter back, but the team is running a business and negotiations could get "messy."
"While it is not our intent to negotiate the terms of Derek's free-agent contract in a public forum," Close told AOL FanHouse, "we do agree with Hal's and Brian [Cashman, the GM]'s recent comments that this contract is about business and winning championships. Clearly, baseball is a business, and Derek's impact on the sport's most valuable franchise cannot be overstated. Moreover, no athlete embodies the spirit of a champion more than Derek Jeter."
Before Steinbrenner made his comments, Cashman said that he did not believe in paying players for milestones and that winning is what puts fans in the seats. Jeter, 36, is coming off the worst statistical season of his career, having hit .270, which is more than 40 points less than his career average. If signed, Jeter likely will become the first Yankee with 3,000 hits. He has 2,926 hits thus far.
After completing his 10-year, $189 million contract, Jeter will be free for the first time in his career to sign with another team, beginning at midnight on Saturday. Cashman and Close have had initial conversations, according to Steinbrenner.
A year ago, Jeter was coming off one of the best seasons of his career. He hit .334 and was considered an AL MVP candidate, but after this season he has not put himself in an ideal negotiating position.
What hangs over the Jeter negotiations is third baseman Alex Rodriguez's contract. Rodriguez, 35, is in the midst of a 10-year deal that could be worth as much as $300 million and lasts until he is 42.
Most in baseball feel that the contract is a mistake and the Yankees clearly don't want the left side of their infield to grow old while taking up so much of their massive, but not bottomless, payroll. Close may want a deal that takes Jeter until he is 42, while the Yankees likely prefer to limit the contract to three years at most.
Andrew Marchand covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.