Monday, October 25, 2010

A Way Out For Jeter and the Yankees

The Fan was loathe to write this post for fear of truly turning this general blog into a Yankee blog. But the Jeter situation is truly one of the biggest off-season stories of the year, so to ignore the story to stay true to this blog's purpose would be a bit stupid. And the story is an intriguing one. To read the best take on the stakes, see Joel Sherman's piece for the "New York Post." It is also obvious that the stakes are higher for Jeter coming off the season he did than it is for the Yankees.

The reality here is that if you split the difference between and Fangraphs and how they calculate WAR (Wins Above Replacement), the 2010 version of Derek Jeter is worth about $7.5 million a year. And that takes into account the hope that he doesn't get worse than he was in 2010. Derek Jeter made $22 million in 2010. Obviously, the Yankees would be out of their minds to give him that kind of money. There is only one shortstop in baseball that is worth that kind of money and his name is Troy Tulowitzki. The only other one close is Stephen Drew. If you added on some value to Jeter getting his 3000th hit as a Yankee, or his fan base of Yankee fans and perhaps his leadership (how do you measure that?), that might bring you to about $10 million a year. But will Derek Jeter's pride let him accept $10 million to keep playing for the Yankees? That's the big question.

If the Fan was Derek Jeter, who is obviously set for life, and as Sherman points out in his Post piece, a lot of his Madison Avenue appeal is based on his status as a Yankee, the Fan would take the $10 million with as little fanfare as possible. But nobody is expecting Jeter to roll over that easily, even if logic were to dictate that he should. All the wheels would then be in place for an impasse. So what should the Yankees do?

Here is a way out of this mess for both parties. Give Jeter a long time contract as a Yankee employee and spread the money out. Give Jeter $100 million spread out over ten years. It doesn't matter how you break that down so long as Jeter doesn't get more than $10 million in a year. Even if you made the contract so it was worth $20 million a year for the next two years, defer half of that over the life of the contract. Jeter gets a guaranteed $100 million to pad his bankroll. But what would the Yankees get?

Well, they would get a least one or two more years of Jeter at short, which is not terrible as he was about the eighth best shortstop in baseball this year (according to WAR) and then eight years of Jeter as either a marginally contributing player and as a Yankee ambassador. There are all kinds of ways Jeter can aid the Yankees outside of baseball in the same way that Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra do now. Since he is getting paid either way, the Yankees have all the leverage to tell Jeter exactly when he is done playing. The Yankees get intense media coverage as Jeter approaches 3000 hits. Maybe Jeter will end up as the Yankee manager. Who knows.

Jeter, to many people's minds, is going to seek $100 million over four years. He gets it, but spread out over ten years, thus saving face for Jeter. The Yankees get a shortstop for the next two years that could come close to earning that $10 million and they get the Jeter brand tied to the Yankee brand for many years to come. That seems like a rational outcome. But contract negotiations are rarely rational. So, this Fan, along with the rest of baseball will wait to see what happens.

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