Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera wearing something other than pinstripes may be as improbable as it is unthinkable. But that doesn’t mean the Yankees will make quick work of the stars’ free-agent contracts.
Along with their pursuit of Rangers left-hander Cliff Lee, Jeter and Rivera are part of a free-agent puzzle that might take some time to piece together. And Lee’s contract, which could well exceed the seven-year, $161 million deal they handed CC Sabathia in 2008, could determine how easily the Yanks can sign Jeter and Rivera.
Despite having the highest payroll in baseball, the Yankees still work under a budget. What an iconic, though fading, 36-year-old shortstop and a nearly 41-year-old relief ace are worth could create some touchy negotiations.
The Yanks definitely want to cut the $21 million salary Jeter made in 2010, his worst offensive season. But they also want to seal him up for the rest of his natural life as sort of a museum piece, a la Joe DiMaggio or Mickey Mantle. Thus, they’ll have to balance the short-term playing aspect with the long-term promotional to arrive at a satisfactory number.
On top of that, Rivera may backtrack on a season-long mindset for a one-year contract and ask for two years, a length the Yanks might not feel comfortable with despite Rivera’s many accomplishments.
Whatever happens won’t happen quickly. Lee’s agent said the pitcher won’t make his decision until the winter meetings in early December. And there is little hurry to sign Jeter or Rivera, considering their best offers will come from the Yanks anyway.
It’s all part of the free agent waiting game.