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Dan Shaughnessy

Why not a short stop with Sox for Jeter?

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By Dan Shaughnessy
Globe Columnist / November 30, 2010

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The Globe’s intrepid Peter Abraham floated the idea in a blog back on Nov. 18.

What if the Red Sox decided to make Derek Jeter a contract offer? Abraham framed his piece in sheer speculation. He was just having a little fun. He wanted to know if Sox fans would tolerate such a notion.

In the fortnight since Pete’s preposterous proposal, things have gotten ugly between the Yankees and their captain. Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, said Jeter is the Yankees’ modern-day Babe Ruth, and general manager Brian Cashman dared Jeter to go find another bidder. ESPN New York is reporting that the Yankees have told Jeter and Close to “drink the reality potion.’’ Last week the New York Post ran a Photoshopped back cover featuring Jeter in a Red Sox uniform next to a headline that read, “Picture this.’’

Dissing Jeter is not a winning strategy, but the Yankees can get away with it because they know that no team is going to make a serious offer for the iconic shortstop.

Which brings us back to John Henry. Suppose the Red Sox step up and shock the world? There is simply no downside to making Jeter a massive offer. In the worst-case scenario he calls your bluff and you get the Yankees captain.

I don’t care if Jeter is way past his prime or if the Sox would have to wildly overpay a player of his diminished skills.

I say offer him the world. Forget about Jayson Werth. Blow Jeter away with dollars and years. At worst this would just mean the Sox would jack up the final price the Yankees must pay. It could be sort of like Mark Teixeira-in-reverse.

And if Jeter actually signed with Boston, the damage to the Yankees’ psyche would be inestimable.

Jeter finishing his career in a Red Sox uniform would be the 2004 American League Championship Series all over again for the hated New Yorkers. Think of how you’d have felt if the Knicks had signed Larry Bird at the end of his career.

The Jeter saga is back-page stuff in the Daily News and the Post just about every day. Jeter wants to be paid like Alex Rodriguez. The Steinbrenners have drawn a line in the Tampa sand. And Gotham is split.

Jeter is 36 and has made more than $205 million during his 15-year Yankees career. He is coming off his worst season, in which he hit .270 and tied for the major league lead in outs made. His on base percentage was .340 and he slugged .370, both career lows. Cashman has admitted the club has concerns with Jeter’s performance and his age. Jeter just completed a 10-year, $189-million deal.

Hal Steinbrenner went on the radio and said that the talks could get “messy.’’ He was right.

The Yankees have offered Jeter $45 million over three years. At that rate, Jeter would be making more than $3 million per year more than any big league shortstop. The Daily News reported that Jeter’s initial request was for six years and $150 million. Close said the report was untrue. Now the Daily News and the Times are reporting that Jeter wants 4-5 years in the $23-million to $24-million per range. Rodriguez is going into the fourth year of a 10-year, $275-million deal and Jeter wants to remind everybody that he’s the stand-up captain who never choked and never cheated.

Jeter can’t possibly spend all this dough, but athletes equate money with respect (remember Pedro Martinez?) and Jeter wants to feel some love at the end of his Hall of Fame career.

Any way you cut the figures, there’s a big gap here. The team is offering $15 million per year while the player wants at least $23 million per year. And more years.

This is where the Red Sox step in.

What’s the harm in offering Jeter $20 million a year over three years? If you can pay J.D. Drew $14 million per year . . . if you can pay a Japanese team $50 million just for the right to speak with Daisuke Matsuzaka . . . if you can buy a futbol club for $476 million, why not spend $60 million to bust pinstripe chops for all the ages?

Jeter is closing in on 3,000 hits. Imagine if he gets his 3,000th hit as a Red Sox . . . at Fenway . . . against Mariano Rivera?

Since we are pretty certain Adrian Beltre is gone, the Red Sox have a big hole at third base. Jeter could play third. Or you could trade Marco Scutaro and put Jeter at short.

This certainly would make the Sox less boring. In an era in which NESN ratings are routinely beaten by reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond,’’ Derek Jeter could make the network more interesting.

Stir it up, Sox. Take a chance. Make Derek Jeter an offer he can’t refuse.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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