NEW YORK — Derek Jeter’s grandmother has been joking that he doesn’t have a job.
“Really it doesn’t feel like there’s anything different,” the New York Yankees captain said Thursday about becoming a free agent for the first time. “I understand there’s negotiations that are going to come and those sorts of things, but for me personally I don’t feel any different.”
Jeter and his agent, Casey Close, met with general manager Brian Cashman, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and team president Randy Levine on Monday in Tampa, Fla. Jeter said the meeting “set the framework” for contract negotiations and went well.
“It really wasn’t that big of a deal,” he said. “It wasn’t like meeting people for the first time. It really wasn’t that complicated.”
Cashman, Jeter and fellow free agent Mariano Rivera were all together in New York on Thursday night, but not for negotiations. Before attending former manager Joe Torre’s Safe At Home Foundation benefit, they couldn’t avoid contract talk.
“It’d be nice to get it over with so you don’t have to answer any more questions,” Jeter said. “It’s not just reporters. You walk down the street and people want to know, ‘Come play for this team. Come play for that team.'”
Cashman described the negotiations with Jeter as in their “infancy stages.”
“He wants us as much as we want him,” Cashman said.
Rivera said of his contract negotiations: “I don’t know anything.”
Cashman’s busy week also included sitting down with free-agent target Cliff Lee and his wife in Little Rock, Ark., on Wednesday. It was the first time Cashman had met the ace left-hander.
“Just seemed like a great guy that’s not very excitable, excellent at what he does, knows what he wants to do,” Cashman said. “Wants to put his family in the best position possible. Wants to be happy. Wants to be successful. Wants to be part of a winner.”
The Yankees’ competition probably will include the Texas Rangers, who acquired Lee in July and rode him to their first World Series appearance.
“This is a place that intrigues them a great deal,” Cashman said of the Lees coming to New York. “But unfortunately there’s other places I’m sure intrigue them as well.”
Cashman also met with Jorge Posada on Monday. The 39-year-old catcher had arthroscopic surgery to repair a small tear in the meniscus of his left knee Wednesday.
“We had a good, honest, direct conversation,” Cashman said. “He was professional. All he wants to do is win, and he wants to play. If things go the way we’re drawing it up, he’ll be in the lineup as the DH. But I told him he needs to prepare as a catcher at the same time, because it doesn’t mean things will go the way you expect.”
Posada was limited to 120 games last season, including 83 at catcher, as he shared time with Francisco Cervelli. Jesus Montero, a Triple-A All-Star at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, is expected to be brought up sometime next season. The Yankees also have another promising prospect in Double-A catcher Austin Romine.
“I’m sure he’s going to want to prove that he has more games in him to catch,” Cashman said. “I’m sure Montero’s going to want to prove it’s time for him to catch. I’m sure Romine’s going through that, ‘Hey, why is Montero getting all the ink? They should be writing about me.’ I’m sure Cervelli is in the middle of this thing saying, ‘Hey, this is a bunch of (junk). I should be the guy they’re talking about being the everyday guy.’
“It creates great competition. That’s what I want.”
Cashman is also searching for a pitching coach after Dave Eiland was fired following the season. The GM started interviews Thursday, talking to bullpen coach Mike Harkey and Oakland Athletics roving pitching instructor Gil Patterson.
Cashman said that once the Yankees re-sign their free-agent stars, “I don’t think there’s a lot more work to be done” this offseason other than adding a starting pitcher. He’s still waiting to hear from Andy Pettitte, who hasn’t decided whether to play next season or retire.
But first those free agents have to be re-signed. The Yankees must decide just how valuable Jeter is on and off the field as he comes off a season in which he hit a career-low .270 and turned 36.
“I’m glad I’m not Brian Cashman that has to put a dollar sign on it,” Torre said.
Asked if other teams would pursue Jeter and Rivera, Cashman said, “Hope not. I’m sure we’ll wind up paying them as if they are.”