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Captain and Cash

November 30, 2010

Kevin Seefried
Captain and Cash

Let me preface this article with a quick statement: Derek Jeter is a damned good baseball player. That often gets lost in these "Jeter's next contract" debates. Jeter reminds me of Yogi Berra;  he is a hall-of-fame-type player with a knack for championships, and people often forget that "clutch-ness" and "stellar personality" aren't the only reasons why people love the guy. Look at his ranking among MLB shortstops in Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, over the past half-decade: 

2010: 9th

2009: T-1st

2008: 6th

2007: 8th

2006: 1st

The guy has been the league's best shortstop twice in the past five years, and in the other three he was still top-ten. It isn't like Jeter's annual AVG/OBP/SLG is .260/.330/.380 and he'd be a complete black hole in the Yankee offense. I understand that Jeter's agility and ability is declining, but I don't see him playing like Yuniesky Betancourt for the rest of his career. Jeter will hit about .310/.370/.410 with 15-20 steals in 2011, mark my words (or, rather, bookmark my article). If my prediction is right, and Jeter plays the same type of defense as he did in 2010, he's worth about $11 million based purely on stats. When you factor in his "aura" and leadership, I'd say he's a $13 million player for any franchise. For the Yankees, you have to factor in the public relations standpoint of the negotiations: if Jeter leaves, fans aren't going to be throwing flowers everywhere and chanting "Let's go Yankees (clap-clap-clapclapclap)" in the street. Put a $3 million price on that public outcry; all together: Jeter is worth about $16 million for the Yankees in 2010. Since I'd say the next highest bidder would only get $13 million of value out of him, the Yanks should, in theory, only have to pay about $13 million and a dollar. Due to the nature of negotiations and the respect between Jeter and the franchise, I'd say $15 million is a fair salary for 2010.

You're probably thinking: hey, the Yanks offered Jeter a contract with an annual value of $15 million, so win-win, huh? Well, let's not forget that the offer I'm referring to was for $45 million over 3 years and my above analysis was only for 2011.  With age, I'd expect Jeter to lose $2 million of value from '11 to '12 and from '12 to '13. In addition to that, you'd have to think that a shortstop playing at the ages of 36, 37, 38, and 39 would encounter some type of injury, so Jeter might actually lose even more value by missing large chunks of time. Do a little adding and subtracting, accounting for decline and injuries, and I see Jeter being worth about $38 million to the Yankees from 2011-2013. From that perspective, the Yanks have already offered Jeter a deal that would overpay him for the next three years. Seeing as Jeter's value to another team would be about $9 million less over that time-span, it seems ludicrous for Jeter to be asking for more than the Yanks have already offered. I should probably mention the other benefits to Jeter staying in New York. 1) His career will seem extra glossy and meaningful because he was a one-team player. 2) New York presents the best chance for him to win championships. 3) He gets to be the captain in New York, no team is going to put the C on his chest as a newcomer. 4) By staying in New York, Jeter doesn't have to deal with a new fan base, new manager, new team, etc. 5) Have you seen New Yankee Stadium? There isn't a nicer clubhouse/locker room in all of baseball.

With those perks, and the knowledge that no other team will top the Yankees' offer, it seems silly that Jeter hasn't yet signed up for three more years of pinstripes. Instead, Jeter is asking for $23-24 million per year for four or five years. For Jeter, this isn't about logic. It's about pride. Really, it isn't like Jeter needs the money; his salary is a measurement of "value." If he makes $15 million, it seems like his "value" is less than that of not only Alex Rodriquez ($32 million), CC Sabathia ($24 million), and Mark Teixeira ($23 million), but also A.J. Burnett ($16.5mm). Jeter feels that he's added more to the franchise than that quarter of multi-millionaires, and rightly so. From his perspective, he means more to the Yankees than those guys, and a $24 million salary would show that. The problem with Jeter's logic arises from his use of the past as a measuring stick of value. The Yanks want to pay Jeter for what he will do, while he wants to be paid for what he did do. Jeter means more to the franchise's legacy than the other players I've mentioned, but as his career dwindles down, his bat and glove aren't going to mean as much as they did in the '96-present section of his career.

Jeter forgets to account for the competitive nature in which his teammates were awarded their respective contracts. Sure, the next-highest bidders for A-Rod and Sabathia weren't breathing down they Yankees' necks, but they were offering substantial deals that forced the Yankees to inflate their proposals until their targets signed. The Yanks had to outbid the Red Sox for Teixeira, and the Braves for Burnett. This Jeter situation doesn't involve another high-bidder; no other team wants to spend some $45 million on Jeter; without pressure to beat out someone else's offer, the Yanks have no reason to offer more than they already have. While an extra $2 million per year would be a nice gesture of respect, the Yanks already "respected" Jeter with his just-expired $189 million, 10-year deal.

Eventually, the Yanks will try to end these messy negotiations once and for all by tacking on that extra $2 million of salary or a fourth-year, and Jeter will sign because, well, he has no other options. Jeter is asking for an unreasonable deal, but you can't blame him and agent Casey Close for attempting to get every last dollar.  Jeter will end up backing off his demands, but until then, the Yanks will attempt to convince him that he's worth a lesser salary than AJ Burnett. Looks like Jeter will have to re-examine his definition of pride.

Editor’s Note: This sports column is a regular feature from “The Nightcap” crew,  a group of 5Cers who air a weekly radio sports talk show on KSPC. You can listen in live online every Monday from 8-10 PM or podcasted at any time from their website. Want to join the radio show this year? 

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