Make no mistake about it: Derek Jeter blinked.
The shortstop agreed in principle Saturday to a complex new contract that should keep him in the Bronx through 2014 in a deal that represents a clear victory for the Yankees.
According to a source familiar with the contract, it is a guaranteed four-year, $56-million deal, with the fourth year an $8-million player option against a $3-million buyout. In that fourth year, Jeter also can earn up to $9 million in incentives that could bring the total contract to as much as $65 million.
Jeter, 36, who will be the highest-paid middle infielder in baseball with an average annual value of about $16 million - pushing him past the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki - must pass a physical before an agreement that just about everyone had thought was inevitable is announced by the Yankees.
With deals in place with Rivera - also pending a physical - and Jeter, they can focus on prized free-agent pitcher Cliff Lee at the meetings, and working on the bullpen and perhaps bench help after that.
The Yankees never had to come up significantly from their original three-year, $45-million offer to Jeter. The shortstop had been looking for a four- or five-year contract worth $23 million a season.
This contract has some deferred money, an industry source said, which will help the Yankees for luxury-tax purposes. Rivera's contract also calls for some deferred money, the source said.
A source with knowledge of the Jeter negotiations said this past week that the sides were working on some "creative" ways to bridge the gap in the negotiations, and this contract is certainly that.
Built into the deal are "points" that Jeter can accrue, starting in 2011, that can translate into dollars. Points are given, for example, for winning the MVP or finishing second through sixth in the voting. Points also would be given for being named MVP in the World Series or ALCS, for winning the Silver Slugger Award or for winning the Gold Glove.
The Yankees all along were insistent that Jeter - who averaged $18.9 million a year in his just-completed 10-year deal, one in which he made $21 million in 2010 - take a pay cut.
After some public squabbling early Thanksgiving week by both sides - with the rhetoric a bit more fiery from the Yankees - that's exactly what happened.
Jeter had little leverage in the talks, and he knew it. Apparently he came to terms with that. "I talked to Jeet four, five days ago," Rivera said yesterday. "He was optimistic. He was fine."
Curtis Granderson, speaking at an autograph signing Saturday afternoon at Last Licks in Rye Brook, N.Y., said Jeter is likely to be among the last of a kind - a star player spending his entire career with one team.
"I think it's a great thing," Granderson said. "A guy who's played every single game of his career with one team is going to be a rarity. I think after his career is all said and done - with free agency, trades, guys wanting to go to their hometowns, all these different things - he's going to probably going to be the last and final guy to do that."
Granderson came to the Yankees in a trade last offseason and said he observed Jeter closely.
"He's been a great teammate," he said. "It's been good to just sit and watch him, talk to him, be by him, and hopefully, it will be that way for [a few more] years."
Rivera, at the same signing as Granderson - reliever David Robertson also was there - said he was somewhat surprised that the Jeter talks at one point got heated.
"I'm surprised, but that's the business side," said Rivera, who agreed to a two-year deal worth $30 million. "Both parties have to get to the middle where everyone's happy and move on."
Progress in the talks, dormant as the week began, came rapidly. The thaw began Tuesday when managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, team president Randy Levine and general manager Brian Cashman met with Jeter and agent Casey Close for nearly five hours in Tampa. More progress came Thursday and Friday, when talks extended late into the night, laying the groundwork for the deal struck yesterday.