New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday that the Yankees have made a "fair and appropriate" contract offer to Derek Jeter and suggested that if the 36-year-old shortstop thinks otherwise, he should shop himself around to find out.
"We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account," Cashman told ESPNNewYork.com. "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."
Cashman was clearly stung by the recent statement of Jeter's agent, Casey Close, who was quoted in Sunday's New York Daily News as saying he was "baffled" by the team's negotiating strategy.
"I was certainly surprised," Cashman said in regards to Close's use of the word "baffled." "There's nothing baffling about our position. We have actually gone directly face-to-face with Casey and Derek and been very honest and direct. They know exactly where we sit."
Cashman would not provide specifics of the team's offer but sources have confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com that it is a three-year contract at $15 million per season. Nor would Cashman discuss the demands being made by Jeter other than to say, "You can write that they have asked for more. More years and more money."
Cashman said there are no further meetings scheduled between the two sides, although he did speak to Close on Monday night to inform him the Yankees would not be offering Jeter arbitration.
If the Yankees had offered arbitration, the shortstop could have accepted a one-year salary set by an arbitrator or signed elsewhere. If he walked, the Yankees would have received two draft picks. But by offering the Yanks would have risked a hearing based on Jeter's 2010 salary of $21 million, considerably more than they are willing to pay him for 2011.
Reached by e-mail Tuesday, Close declined comment to ESPNNewYork.com.
Two weeks ago, owner Hal Steinbrenner acknowledged that the talks to retain Jeter, who is coming off a 10-year, $189 million contract as well as the worst offensive season of his career, "might get messy."
"As much as we want to keep everybody, we've already made these guys very, very rich, and I don't feel we owe anybody anything monetarily," the Yankees co-chairman said in a phone interview with The Associated Press Tuesday. "Some of these players are wealthier than their bosses."
It appears that point has been reached. Although Cashman repeated the Yankees' oft-stated position that they want Jeter back and intend to sign him to a new multiyear deal, the GM acknowledged that "defining 'fair' is a real issue here."
The reluctance of the Yankees to offer Jeter more than three years reflects the team's concerns with his performance both at bat and in the field this past season. Jeter's batting average fell to .270 and his on-base percentage to .340, both the lowest since he became an everyday player in 1996.
"We've made an offer and we hope they strongly consider it," Cashman said. "[But] there are things we have concerns with -- his recent performance over the last few years, and his age. And that has to be factored into this negotiation."
Close did not respond to requests for comment but sources told ESPNNewYork.com last week that Jeter is seeking a minimum of four more years and perhaps as much as six more, at approximately $20 million per season.
"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 our 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."
Cashman said the nature and tenor of the negotiation was no different from any other aside from the name of the player involved.
"I think every negotiation is different and every negotiation is difficult," he said. "Every negotiation you have to have hard conversations and some of the negotiations conclude in a successful marriage. Others don't. That's the way it works."
Wallace Matthews covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com.