Jeter Signs Three-Year Deal With Yankees, Continues Pursuit of 3,000 Hits

Derek Jeter signed a three-year contract with the New York Yankees, staying with the only Major League Baseball team he’s ever played for as he pursues 3,000 career hits and a spot in the Hall of Fame.

The contract also contains a fourth-year option that Jeter can trigger, the Yankees said in a news release.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The New York Times, citing an unidentified person in baseball who was briefed on the matter, said on Dec. 4 that the contract would be worth between $15 million and $17 million annually.

The Yankees scheduled a news conference with their shortstop and team captain in Tampa, Florida, this afternoon.

Jeter, 36, was ranked by SI.com as the American athlete with the eighth-highest earnings this year at $31 million. The Times said the deal ensures Jeter will remain the highest-paid shortstop in baseball, ahead of Troy Tulowitzki, who agreed on a 10-year, $157.8 million contract this week to stay with the Colorado Rockies.

Jeter needs 74 hits to become the first Yankee to reach 3,000 in his career.

The agreement ends a month of discussions between the two sides that became publicly bitter. Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ managing general partner, said at the beginning of talks that they could get “messy.” Hank Steinbrenner, his brother and the team’s co-chairman, said in an Associated Press interview last month that “we’ve already made these guys very, very rich, and I don’t feel we owe anybody anything monetarily.”

Worst Year

Jeter in 2010 had his worst offensive season since becoming a regular in 1996, producing numbers generally associated with players making much less than the $19 million he averaged over the past 10 years.

Casey Close, Jeter’s longtime agent, told the New York Daily News that he was “baffled” by the Yankees’ position, and that his client deserved to be paid for what he had helped bring to the franchise, including five World Series championships.

The Yankees’ initial offer was $45 million over three years, with Close pushing for $150 million over six seasons, the Daily News said. Brian Cashman, the Yankees’ general manager, said that if Jeter didn’t like the offer he should test the free-agent market and see if some other team would pay more for a player who already is the oldest starting shortstop in the American League.

The two sides resumed negotiations in Tampa, Florida, on Nov. 30, and Hank Steinbrenner told the AP that night that he and his brother “feel confident that Derek will remain with the Yankees.”

Torre Support

“Hard for me to believe Yankees wouldn’t want him back and just happy it worked out for him,” Joe Torre, Jeter’s manager in New York from 1996 through 2007, said at a news conference today at baseball’s winter meetings in Orlando, Florida. “Hopefully he continues to stay healthy.”

Jeter was promoted to the Yankees in 1995 after they drafted him with the sixth pick in the first round three years earlier. He entered free agency this offseason after completing a 10-year, $189 million contract.

The AL Rookie of the Year in 1996, Jeter has never won a Most Valuable Player award or a batting title. He has produced consistent top-10 rankings that place his career figures in the range of Hall of Fame members, according to the website Baseball-reference.com.

Already the Yankees’ career hits leader, Jeter would become the 28th major league batter to reach 3,000 in his career. Every eligible member of that group is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame except Rafael Palmeiro, who will be on the Hall ballot for the first time this year.

Hall of Fame

Should he retire with the team and later be elected to the Hall in Cooperstown, New York, Jeter would be the eighth Yankee so honored after playing an entire major-league career in the Bronx, joining Earle Combs, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford and Mickey Mantle.

While league managers and coaches did name him a Gold Glove winner for his defense after he committed a career-low six errors in 2010, advanced fielding statistics showed Jeter’s range wasn’t as great as many of his peers. His Ultimate Zone Rating, which measures how many runs a player gave up or saved with his defense, placed Jeter 4.7 runs below average last season, and another metric, Defensive Runs Saved, rated him 13 runs below average, according to Fangraphs.com.

Franchise Face

Jeter’s numbers aside, he is the face of a franchise focused on its own statistic -- as the most valuable in baseball.

Jeter’s chase for 3,000 hits should help draw fans to the $1.6 billion Yankee Stadium next season.

He already holds baseball’s record for postseason hits, with 185; runs (101); doubles (30); and games played (147).

After being named the team’s 11th captain in 2003, Jeter manned the microphone to close the old Yankee Stadium in September 2008. He again represented the team at a July ceremony marking the deaths of owner George Steinbrenner and public address announcer Bob Sheppard.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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