LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Derek Jeter was the Rookie of the Year and the Yankees were champions in 1996, beginning a two-decade run of successful player and team that pretty much made him bulletproof in New York for two decades.
He had a fan base on his side, and no matter how vanilla or vague, contrarian or contradictory, Jeter was not going to be held much to it. He was on the permanent honor roll, lots of collateral in the bank.
Jeter does not have that collateral in South Florida running the Marlins. Jeter bought into a team that had been horribly run. He was going to have to come in and be the bad guy, a role — like being an owner rather than a shortstop — for which he was ill prepared.
Any new leader of the Marlins was going to have to trade Giancarlo Stanton. He wanted out, done with the revolving door of leadership and faced with the uphill climb of another rebuild. Jeter is not at fault for having to get out of as much of the 10 years at $295 million that remained on Stanton’s deal, not with the staggering debt the organization already faces.
But a player known for handling himself so well in the crucible did not perform well as a member of management. Yet, in his first comments since Stanton was dealt to the Yankees, Jeter said: “There is nothing I would do differently.”
Jeter should reconsider because it was clear Stanton and his camp were not pleased with how this went down, from Jeter never making face-to-face contact with the slugger until last Tuesday and with the Marlins delivering an ultimatum soon after that if he did not accept a deal to either the Cardinals or Giants — who had trades in place to acquire Stanton — then he would be put in the gulag of having to spend the rest of his career as a Marlin.
As miserable as Stanton found his Marlins existence, he said he “was not going to be forced to do” something under threat. It turned out that the threat was the weakest at-bat of Jeter’s career. By Thursday, the Marlins had a deal in place with the Yankees.
Jeter disputed that the Marlins accepted this deal because they were desperate, with nowhere to turn, insisting, “This was the best move and the best deal for the organization.” If so, then why threaten Stanton with, of all things, having to play for Derek Jeter the rest of his career if he didn’t go to St. Louis or San Francisco?
Jeter wanted to portray this as a good trade, not a money dump, but think of it this way: The Yankees gave Oakland a better package for 2 1/2 years of Sonny Gray than Miami for 10 seasons of the reigning NL MVP. They would not trade Gleyber Torres straight up for Starlin Castro, Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers, and the Yankees got Torres plus more from the Cubs for three months of Aroldis Chapman.
The Yankees and Stanton had all the leverage here, Jeter pretty much none. It would have been OK to say that, to admit that the organization needed to do the best it could, but that the priority immediately is getting the financial house in order.
He could have admitted he blew it by not sitting down right away with Stanton or even calling to congratulate Stanton when he won the MVP. Instead, he had president of baseball operations Mike Hill play middleman. Jeter should remember how disrespected he felt in contract negotiations after the 2010 season, feeling he was getting low-balled because the Yanks knew he didn’t want to go anywhere else. All negotiations are about leverage, and stars generally like to feel the love.
Stanton had the leverage with a no-trade clause, and Jeter didn’t give him the love to even try to get him to the Marlins’ side. It is part of a series of missteps that have haunted the early days of Jeter as a baseball executive that never set in early in his playing career.
He has no leverage with whatever fan base the Marlins have, no love stored up from exploits done in front of them. He is not going to be the Rookie Executive of the Year.