But the Yankees' talent evaluators have talked about a fallback position if Jeter winds up signing elsewhere, sources said -- and their Plan B has a name: Eduardo Nunez.
The 23-year-old infielder has 30 games in the big leagues, with 50 at-bats, and is considered to be a superlative defensive player. If Jeter were to stun the baseball world and walk away from the Yankees, sources say the Yankees have discussed installing Nunez at shortstop at the outset of spring training in 2011, rather than sign a veteran shortstop like Orlando Cabrera.
They would use the money that would have been allocated for Jeter in other ways -- to augment the team's pitching, or perhaps through the acquisition of a free agent. The Yankees are also involved in other high-priced negotiations: with closer Mariano Rivera and starting pitcher Cliff Lee, which would require a lot of money.
Nunez would get a shot to win the starting shortstop job, and at the same time, the Yankees would likely remain flexible about acquiring a more established player at the position if needed.
The Yankees have reportedly offered Jeter a three-year, $45 million contract, and the gap between the Yankees' offer and what Jeter has been looking for has been enormous. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has stated publicly that he has encouraged Jeter to test the market and determine if he can get better offers from other teams.
With the winter meetings looming, it would stand to reason that the conversations between Jeter's agent, Casey Close, and the team will resume this week.
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.