The Yankees and shortstop Derek Jeter reached tentative agreement Tuesday on a historic seven-year, $118.5-million contract, pending George Steinbrenner's final approval, Newsday has learned. There are a handful of other issues to be resolved, including a physical for Jeter, but none is considered a potential deal-breaker aside from Steinbrenner's veto power, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
The Yankees also signed starting pitcher Andy Pettitte to a three-year, $25.5-million contract that includes a club option for a fourth year, according to sources, and reached a one-year, $1.2-million agreement with catcher Jorge Posada. Pettitte, who was nearly traded this past season, would have been eligible for free agency following the upcoming season.
On any other day, Pettitte's contract agreement would be a major story. Instead, it was dwarfed by the Jeter developments. Jeter's tentative contract, which could be finalized within a week, would make the budding superstar the highest-paid player in baseball history, at slightly more than $16.9 million per season. It also would ensure that he spends the prime of his career in pinstripes.
Only 25, Jeter already has won three World Series rings. If he maintains his pace, he would have more than 2,200 hits when his contract would expire after the 2006 season, when he would be only 32.
The remarkable agreement, which came on the day teams and arbitration-eligible players exchanged salary figures, represents a sea change in the way Steinbrenner has negotiated with arbitration-eligible players. Historically, The Boss has gone year-to-year with such players, a practice that cost him untold millions of dollars and created acrimony, most recently in the case of centerfielder Bernie Williams.
But several key members of the Yankees front office were determined to avoid those same mistakes with Jeter -- as well as with closer Mariano Rivera -- and apparently convinced Steinbrenner of the cost certainty and good-will benefits of a long-term deal.
It's important to note that Steinbrenner has not authorized the agreement -- he won't until he meets with Jeter -- and that unforeseen complications could develop. However, the only significant stumbling block to a deal seems to be Steinbrenner's mindset.
That might not be much of an obstacle, either, considering Steinbrenner has authorized talks with Jeter to progress as far as they have.
Steinbrenner also has a relationship with Jeter unlike that with any other Yankees player. Jeter frequently jokes with Steinbrenner and is the only player who felt comfortable enough to pour champagne on the notoriously stern owner's head during the Yankees' past two World Series celebrations.
Jeter didn't seem nervous when he doused Steinbrenner, and he doesn't seem nervous regarding his deal.
''Eventually, I'll get a long-term deal,'' Jeter told The Associated Press Tuesday after working out at the Yankees' training complex in Tampa. ''Hopefully, it will be sooner than later. It's out of my hands. We'll see what happens. It's just a matter of time, I think.''
(Optional add end)
The Yankees and Jeter's agent, Casey Close, discussed potential deals of five, seven and 10 years before narrowing their focus Monday to a seven-year deal that they quickly agreed would exceed the record seven-year, $105-million contract signed by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Kevin Brown last offseason.
When the talks were suspended Monday night, the Yankees were trying to get Jeter to accept an average annual salary of $16 million. The sides apparently agreed on the $118.5-million grand total Tuesday morning but filed arbitration figures at the noon deadline as a contingency against Steinbrenner's potential veto.
The Yankees submitted a $9.5-million figure and Jeter filed for $10.5 million, a difference so relatively insignificant as to suggest the sides agreed on the figures in advance to demonstrate good-faith negotiating on the multiyear deal.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service
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