Brian Sabean Gives a Nod to his Baseball Roots

As the New York Yankees and their free agent shortstop Derek Jeter arm wrestle over Jeter’s next contract, no one in baseball seriously thinks there is a chance that Jeter will shed his pin stripes and grab the next flight out of JFK. After 16 years as a Yankee, seven trips to the World Series, 11 All Star appearances, and confirmed reservations as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame after he retires, Derek Jeter is as iconic to the Bronx Bombers as all those other monuments planted beyond the center field wall in Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees have apparently put a three year $45 million offer on the table for Jeter’s agent Casey Close. But it seems that particular table needs to get a little larger to hold the amount of cash Close believes his client is worth. And what is Jeter’s recent worth, as established by the same Yankee front office that is currently playing cat to his mouse?

derekjeterDerek Jeter just completed a 10 year $189 million contract to patrol the left side of New York’s infield, including a $21 million paycheck in 2010. That would be why the Yankees’ offer of $15 million a year (for three years) might seem insulting to the Jeter camp. (To put it into better perspective, if I were to be given a $6 million pay cut I would first have to immediately go to hundreds of job interviews, be quickly hired to several dozen full time jobs, then take massive salary cuts from all of them. Even then, I would owe an additional $5.2 million.)

Then out of nowhere, in the middle of these delicate negotiations, the Wall Street Journal’s Brian Costa reported that San Francisco Giants General Manager Brian Sabean had “contacted” Casey Close about Jeter. It is well-known in the baseball world that San Francisco is in need of a shortstop, and that was true even before the Giants’ beloved free agent infielder Juan Uribe jumped ship and put his DNA on the dotted line to become a Los Angeles Dodger. What, the Taliban didn’t have an opening in their infield so Uribe resorted to this?

The Giants contacting Jeter is extremely interesting, and not because there is any chancebrian-sabean they might actually sign the wayward Jeter. San Francisco couldn’t begin to pay half the $45 million offer Derek Jeter and Casey Close blew their noses on and carefully inserted into the nearest shredder. No, the Giants were not shopping; Brian Sabean was giving a professional nod to his early baseball roots and to a player he originally helped scout and sign.

Sabean made his bones with the Yankee organization in the 1980s and early 1990s, first as scouting director, then as vice president of player development. He was instrumental in drafting a high school player from Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1992 named Derek Jeter. It was the find of a lifetime, and solidified his resume as an up an coming general manager. But before the Yankees gave him that opportunity the Giants grabbed Sabean in 1993; he became Giants GM in 1996.

Sabean’s call to Casey Close? The last thing most GMs want is for the sports media to get any inside information about who is calling whom about what, especially the hyper-secretive Sabean. So when the media found out about the call to Casey Close, it was certainly no accident. It has all the earmarks of a professional gesture to Derek Jeter, to show the aging shortstop he is not forgotten as he struggles with the most difficult contract negotiations of his career. A rare show of support from a GM on one team to a player on another, recalling and honoring a time when they were both just starting out on a very tough road.

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