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Could Jeter be the missing link or another Tino?

One columnist suggests the St. Louis Cardinals should sign Derek Jeter to replace Albert Pujols.

In a Saturday column at the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rogers seemed to be in the mood to try to drum up some interest for free agent shortstop Derek Jeter. The New York Yankees captain is in the midst of acrimonious contract negotiations with those who hold the keys to his only home as a professional.

In his career decline phase at age 36, Jeter appears to want more years and money than others deem reasonable. Rumors place the Yankees’ offer at three years, $45 million while Jeter’s counter may be four or five years at $23 million per season. In other words, there is a huge gap to overcome.

The Yankees did not offer Jeter arbitration, freeing him to sign with another club without compensation. As a Type A player, had Jeter been offered and declined, he would have cost a prospective signing team their first or second-round draft pick in 2011.

Given that, Rogers pulls out his dart board and outlines a list of other clubs that “at least must be discussing Jeter”. They include the Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants, Orioles, Twins, Angels, Cubs and White Sox.

In the case of the St. Louis, Rogers suggests, apparently with a straight face, that if the Cardinals cannot get Albert Pujols to commit to a contract extension, they should quickly turn to Jeter.

Specifically, Rogers wants the Cardinals to give their superstar an ultimatum. Either Pujols immediately takes St. Louis’ best deal, or they redeploy the money allocated for him as the basis for a four-year contract offer to the aging Yankees shortstop.

Have Rogers’ thought processes been mutated by the numerous failures of his hometown Cubs in signing expensive free agent busts or is his proposal a stroke of brilliance?

Would Jeter join forces with Pujols, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and the others for one last run at a championship as the columnist suggests, or would it send the Cardinals back down the Tino Martinez path to ruin?

Free agency is an avenue not recently traveled by the Cardinals. The last winter in which they made a big splash in that market, signing players from other organizations, was in 2001-2002, when closer Jason Isringhausen was one of two major additions.

The other was another fading Yankees icon, Martinez, who was not retained by New York following the 2001 season. At age 34, the first baseman signed a three-year, $21 million contact with the Cardinals.

After two tumultuous and disappointing seasons, Martinez was dumped for a non-prospect by then-general manager Walt Jocketty. The Cardinals were so anxious to be rid of Tino that they ate his 2004 salary simply so he would play the final year of his contract for Tampa Bay instead.

A consideration for Jeter is the recent example of his former teammate Johnny Damon. The ex-Yankees outfielder, also nearing the end of a solid career, was a free agent one year ago. He and agent Scott Boras badly miscalculated his market value, demanding a contract offer no less per year than his previous deal. The Yankees countered with a lower, but very fair proposal. After Damon did not respond, New York pulled the offer and he ended up signing with Detroit for considerably less money.

What do you think? Would signing Jeter be a bold stroke or a terrible move for the Cardinals?

Poll: Should the Cardinals consider signing Derek Jeter?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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