Brian Cashman said yesterday that he's encouraged Derek Jeter "to test the market and see if there's something he would prefer other than this," referring to the reported three-year, $45 million contract the Yankees have offered him. (And if you couldn't quite picture the highly unlikely end result of Jeter's talking to other teams, the Post helps out with a Photoshopped image of Jeter wearing a Red Sox uniform.) But Cashman knows what he's doing.
If Jeter tests the market, he's likely to find that no other team is willing to pay a 36-year-old shortstop more than that Yankees offer of $15 million a year. That's a pretty generous offer (especially if it's only the Yankees' starting point), and it factors in more than Jeter's skills as a ballplayer. Said Cashman: "We understand his contributions to the franchise, and our offer has taken them into account." Nate Silver wrote yesterday that based solely on on-field performance and statistical projections, an argument that Jeter is worth anywhere from $5 million to $12 million per year over the next three years "could probably be defended." And, he explains, other teams won't be so willing to base their offer on anything other than on-field production.
The $15 or $25 million "bonus" that he provides to the Yankees in off-the-field value is for the most part expressly contingent on the fact that he remains a Yankee, the franchise that he is identified with. Fans in Pittsburgh or San Francisco or Boston feel no particular loyalty to Jeter, and while he would surely still be a good ambassador for those clubs, he might not generate many more season ticket sales for them above and beyond what any other decent shortstop would.
Hank Steinbrenner said yesterday that "negotiating is a process," and he's right: At some point, the Yankees may very well raise their offer (we bet adding a fourth year will go a long way toward pleasing Jeter), and Casey Close may very well lower his demands. (Hank also said that "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," which sounds a lot more like the Hank Steinbrenner we know.) In any case, before that real negotiating happens — as opposed to the negotiation through the press that we're witnessing now — Cashman wants Jeter to know exactly how generous he considers their offer to be, and if that means making him test the free-agent waters to find out, then so be it.