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Cashman: Jeter free to find better offer

Hal Steinbrenner says he has no firm timeline

Hal Steinbrenner says he has no firm timeline in his head to complete the Yankees' business, including the signing of Derek Jeter. Photo Credit: John Dunn

The Yankees are so confident with their offer to Derek Jeter that they're all but publicly daring their iconic shortstop to find something better on the open market.

"We're not trying to chase Derek away. We're trying to get him to sign," general manager Brian Cashman said Tuesday. "But at the same time, he's a free agent. If he doesn't like what we're offering him, if he can find a better opportunity with more money, that's fine. Whatever's important to him."

Cashman was spurred into addressing the negotiations publicly - unusual for him especially when it involves one of his own players - after reading a quote by Jeter's agent, Casey Close, in a published report over the weekend describing the Yankees' negotiating strategy as "baffling."

Close declined to comment by e-mail Tuesday.

The Yankees are believed to have offered Jeter a three-year contract worth about $45 million, which represents a significant drop-off from the 10-year, $189-million deal that Jeter just finished. As the two sides remain far apart in negotiations, the fundamental divide is with Jeter's value to the organization.

The Yankees prefer to give Jeter a deal that accounts for his projected performance, understanding that he's a 36-year-old shortstop coming off the worst offensive season of his career. Close, meanwhile, is frustrated that the Yankees are not paying enough attention to what Jeter has meant to the franchise.

Close was quoted in Sunday's Daily News as saying: "There's a reason the Yankees themselves have stated Derek Jeter is their modern-day Babe Ruth. Derek's significance to the team is much more than just stats."

Cashman took particular issue with the notion that the Yankees are not treating Jeter fairly.

"Do we want Derek Jeter back? Yes. Do we want to treat him fairly? Yes," Cashman said. "Do we want to be treated fairly? Yes. It takes two to see things the same way."

While declining to discuss the specific terms, Cashman said Close responded to the Yankees' initial offer with one of their own. The Yankees have since countered with a new offer, Cashman said.

Cashman also said the Yankees declined to offer Jeter arbitration by last night's deadline, meaning they're going to have to work this out through old-fashioned negotiations.

Offering arbitration was viewed as too risky because players almost always receive raises that way. Because Jeter made $21 million last season and the Yankees are trying to lower his salary, it's quite plausible that he would have accepted the arbitration offer.

Instead, Cashman and Close will have to continue talking. The overwhelming opinion throughout the baseball world is still that the Yankees and Jeter will ultimately find common ground. But now it's painfully clear the road there will be significantly rockier than either side had once hoped.

"He has a personal decision to make," Cashman said of Jeter. "We hope he chooses the Yankees. But it's his choice. We can't make it happen."

Notes & quotes: Cliff Lee's agent, Darek Braunecker, told Newsday that Lee's timetable for a decision will not be altered by what transpires between the Yankees and Jeter . . . The only free agent the Yankees offered arbitration to is Javier Vazquez, reportedly with the understanding that he will not accept. The Yankees therefore will gain an extra draft sandwich-round pick (between the first and second round) of next June's amateur draft when Vazquez - a Type B free agent - signs elsewhere.

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