TAMPA — Iconic shortstop Derek Jeter said he was "angry'' with how contentious contract talks between his agent and the Yankees became so public, but he is very happy to remain with the only team he has ever wanted to play for.
Jeter's new deal, for three years and $51 million (with a player option for 2014), was officially announced Tuesday at Steinbrenner Field. Despite being "uncomfortable" during the negotiation process, the Yankees captain said he never planned to bargain with other clubs.
Jeter, a five-time World Series champion and 11-time All-Star, also never envisioned the talks being anything but private.
"The thing that bothered me was how public this (negotiation) became," Jeter said. "It was not an enjoyable experience. I'm more angry at the process and how I was portrayed. I heard 'greed.' All of a sudden now I have an ego and arrogance."
Jeter said all his issues have been addressed and he and the Yankees are "one big, happy family," ready to move on.
"In a family, brothers and sisters can fight," general manager Brian Cashman said. "And at the end of the day, you all get past it, because he's a Yankee, he's always been a Yankee, and is going to finish as a Yankee. And that's the bottom line."
Jeter, who turns 37 in June, is coming off a down year, posting full-season career lows in batting average (.270), on-base percentage (.340) and slugging percentage (.370). Realizing there might be a gap in the negotiations, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said in a radio interview Nov. 2 the deal could get "messy." Jeter's agent, Casey Close, told the New York Daily News more than two weeks ago he was "baffled" by the Yankees' stance with their "modern-day Babe Ruth."
Jeter said Tuesday that was "Casey's opinion," not necessarily his own. But Jeter was pretty angry when the Yankees later suggested he test the market when he didn't want to go anywhere else.
"To hear the organization tell me to 'shop it' when I just told you I wasn't going to, if I'm going to be honest with you, I was angry about it," Jeter said.
Cashman said he was angry that he was "put in position to respond" in the media, but the organization felt its initial offer (believed to be three years, $45 million) was going to be the highest, and telling Jeter to test the market wasn't "supposed to be insulting, it's supposed to speed up the process."
It seems as though it did. Jeter said negotiations didn't really start until last week, when he and Close met with club officials in Tampa. Talks intensified until an agreement was made Saturday, ensuring Jeter remained the highest-paid shortstop in baseball, but he took a $2 million cut from his previous annual salary ($18.9 million). There's reportedly an $8 million player option for the fourth year (or a $3 million buyout), with the option year potentially increasing by as much as $9 million based on incentives.
"The process can stink at times, it really can," Cashman said. "But it is what it is. Sometimes you have to walk through fire to get to the promised land, so we walked through the fire."
Though the process appeared contentious, the announcement Tuesday included plenty of smiles: Hal Steinbrenner, manager Joe Girardi and Cashman were there to welcome Jeter back, with Jeter's father, Charles, also in attendance.
Cashman talked about Jeter getting his 3,000th hit with the Yankees — he's the club's all-time hits leader (2,926) — and, they hope, more championships.
Jeter said he feels he has "a lot of years left of playing productive baseball." And though Jeter doesn't know how many exactly, if he has to go through another free-agent negotiation, there's one thing for certain.
"I promise you," he said, smiling. "You won't hear about that one."
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.