As a heavy snow begins to blanket New York City, there’s little to do until pitchers and catcher report but sit and wait. The Yankees are through with their Hot Stove League wheelin’ and dealin’, and as the equipment trucks head south, a calm descends upon the organization. Yet, this moment of off-season serenity isn’t wanting for musings on the next season.
As we’ve written more than once over the last few months, the Yankees face some contract choices next winter. Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Joe Girardi will be free agents, and while it’s easy to see Rivera and Girardi returning on similar deals to those in place now, Jeter remains the big question mark. When it will time to sign his new contract, Jeter will be 36, and even though he is coming off of a 10-year, $189 million, the Yankees may very well have to pay him for what he’s done rather than for what he will do.
Today in The Post, Joel Sherman tackles the topic with a piece on Jeter’s pride. He doesn’t talk about Derek’s pride as arrogance but rather focuses on Jeter’s pride as it impacts his desire to be a better player. The story is one we’ve heard before because Joe discussed it after attending a Brian Cashman WFAN breakfast a while back: The Yanks’ GM challenged Jeter to improve his defense, and Jeter did so. While maintaining his prodigious offensive output, Jeter has morphed from a below-average defender into an average-to-above-average one.
How will this impact the Yanks’ efforts at extending their star short stop? Sherman thinks that Jeter’s drive to stay at the top of his game will lead him to pressure the Yanks into paying up simply producing on the field. Sherman pegs the chances of Jeter’s remaining in pinstripes at 98 percent, and because of A-Rod’s contract, the Post scribe believes Jeter will get four years at $100 million. He would, in that sense, nearly match A-Rod, and the left side of the Yanks’ infield would be making a combined $50 million at a time when both players are over 35.
Does this make sense? Over the last four seasons, Jeter has seen his WAR value fluctuate. According to Fangraphs, he was worth $23.2 million in 2006, $15.5 million in 2007, $16.6 million in 2008 and a whopping $33.4 million in 2009 for a four-year total of $88.7 million. Since he, like the rest of us, isn’t getting any younger, I doubt he can duplicate even that four-year total, and, for example, his CHONE prediction pegs him at $15.4 for 2010.
In the end, the Yankees will pay Derek Jeter simply because he is Derek Jeter. He’s not going to go anywhere, and the team will take care of him. As I said yesterday, though, as the Yanks’ core players age and earn more, the team will have to find young cost-controlled talent to alleviate the payroll pressure. If Derek gets even a four-year, $84-million extension, thus replicating his 2010 salary, the Yanks will be paying their short stop and third baseman a combined $46 million in 2014 when they are 40 and 38 respectively. That’s a bit of a scary thought.