- Wallace Matthews, ESPNNewYork.com
- 0 Shares
NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter's parents have casually mentioned to their son that for the first time in more than 15 years, he is technically no longer a New York Yankee.
His grandmother has joked, as grandmothers will, that her superstar grandson is unemployed.
His general manager says he "can't envision" Jeter playing for any other team, his former manager refuses to believe his subpar 2010 was anything more than an off-year, and a former teammate credits him with helping to swing the town back to the Yankees after nearly a decade of 1980s dominance by the Mets.
And yet, when Jeter was asked Thursday night if he had any doubts that he would sign a new contract with the Yankees this winter and spend the remainder of his career where he started it, Jeter was characteristically cautious and uncharacteristically candid.
"I don't know," Jeter said at Chelsea Piers, where he was to be the guest of honor at Joe Torre's annual Safe at Home Dinner representing the former Yankees manager's foundation to benefit victims of domestic abuse.
"I mean, I have no idea," Jeter said. "I'd like to think it would [get done], but I don't know."
Jeter and his agent, Casey Close, met for an unspecified amount of time with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, GM Brian Cashman and team president Randy Levine at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., on Monday.
Both Cashman and Jeter described the meeting as positive, but neither has offered details of what was discussed except to acknowledge that no money was discussed, no offers or demands made and no further meetings currently scheduled.
"I think we both want his future to be in pinstripes," said Cashman, who preceded Jeter by several minutes on the red carpet leading in to the event. "Absolutely, there's no doubt about that. And I'm confident he wants us as much as we want him."
But Cashman, too, stopped short of guaranteeing that Jeter would be a Yankee again in 2011.
"I certainly don't envision and never want to envision Derek Jeter being with anyone other than the New York Yankees," Cashman said. "Those discussions have started, and over the course of this winter we'll find a way to get something done. That's our hope. Until that happens, there probably won't be much to talk about."
Earlier this week, a baseball source told ESPN New York that the meeting included an open discussion between Jeter and the Yankees. Jeter, typically closed-mouthed, refused to reveal any details but said that two of the main issues that have been speculated about -- a possible position change in the future as well as a possible drop in the lineup -- had been part of the conversation.
"I can't comment on that," he said, "because it hasn't been brought up."
The notion of shifting Jeter from shortstop to another position, perhaps third base or the outfield, may have lost some momentum when Jeter won his fifth Gold Glove this week, and second in a row despite some advanced fielding statistics that may indicate a loss of range.
But after a season in which he hit just .270, the lowest of his career and 44 points below his career average, the idea of moving Jeter down in the lineup probably still has some legs, especially after manager Joe Girardi refused to rule it out at a news conference last week.
"You can't go from the kind of year he had [in 2009, when he hit .334] to all of a sudden thinking he can't play anymore, because it's just not true," Torre said. "I'm glad I'm not Brian Cashman that has to put a dollar sign on it because that's a tough job. Hopefully, they satisfy each other and Derek remains in pinstripes."
According to Jeter, the meeting was brief and fairly inconsequential. "It was just basically a sit-down," he said. "I really didn't look too much into it. It's not the first time I've had a meeting with these guys, you know what I mean?"
Asked if he had an idea when his contract might get settled, Jeter said, "I don't know. This is the first time I've gone through this so I don't know how the process works. I don't know timeframes. I don't know when people usually sign or anything like that. So I have no idea."
Jeter's 10-year, $189 million contract, signed after the conclusion of the 2000 World Series in which the Yankees beat the Mets in five games and Jeter was voted the Series MVP, expired after the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers in the 2010 World Series.
The Yankees allowed the five-day period in which they had exclusive rights to negotiate with Jeter to expire before meeting with Jeter and Close on Monday, a day after he officially became a free-agent.
But Jeter is also fair game on the open market now, although he would not divulge whether he or his agent have been contacted by any other teams. "They don't have my number," he joked. "But I already told you guys what my wishes were in spring training. That hasn't changed. I really don't know what else I can say."
At the time, Jeter expressed his desire to remain with the only professional baseball organization he has ever worked for. David Cone, for one, a teammate of Jeter's on Yankees teams that won the World Series in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000, said he couldn't imagine Jeter ever playing anywhere else.
"It's just gotta happen," Cone said of a new Yankees contract for Jeter. "I know there's a lot of debate on how much he's worth now as opposed to then, but I'll say this: When I played for the Mets in the 1980s, New York was a National League town. I think Derek Jeter, not singlehandedly, but very prominently, swung a whole generation of young fans over to the Yankees. I don't know how you put a price tag on that."
Putting a pricetag on a legend is the job for Cashman and Steinbrenner. Predictably, Jeter would just like the whole thing to go away.
"It would be nice to get it over with, just so you don't have to answer any more questions about it," he said. "Because it's not just reporters who ask questions. You walk down the street and people want to know, would you play for this team, would you play for that team? So yeah, it'd be nice to get away from that."
And to be able to tell his grandmother that once again, her grandson has a job.
When Derek Jeter was asked Thursday night if he had any doubts that he would sign a new contract with the Yankees this winter and spend the remainder of his career where he started it, he was characteristically cautious and uncharacteristically candid.