Derek Jeter and his legion of once-loyal fans are undergoing a rocky time in their relationship. After watching him hit .270/.340/.370 while playing creaky short stop defense in the final season of his ten-year mega-deal, Yankee fans haven’t figured out how to embrace the aging Derek Jeter. Many refuse to criticize a player who has gone all out for so many years and is an emblem of the Yanks’ 15 seasons of success. Others worry about the years and the money the Yankees will hand to him this season.
And hand it to him they will. Earlier this week, in discussing his off-season plans, Brian Cashman called Derek Jeter a “legacy” player. He won’t get paid as exorbitantly as, say, Cliff Lee will be, but he’ll earn his money. Plus, even as the Yankees remain rightly wary of Jeter’s decline, the Yankees need their Captain. They have no internal option at short, and the free agent market at short stop remains perennially weak. Cesar Izturis is not the answer.
Yet, questions about Jeter’s contract abound. Will the Yanks try to limit the years and promise him more money? Will they commit to a long-term investment and try to reduce the salary? And what of his ability to leadoff or play short stop? While that third question won’t factor heavily into the negotiations, it will determine Jeter’s role with and importance to the club over the next few seasons.
We don’t know yet what the Yanks’ initial offer to Jeter will be, and we don’t know what Jeter’s initial ask is. That doesn’t stop executives and agents from guessing. Today, Sweeney Murti of WFAN did just that, and he took his question to those very same execs and agents who enjoy the guessing game. He asked 26 folks — 13 agents, 13 executives, none involved with the Yanks or Jeter — for their takes on the Derek contract situation, and the results show a wide range of potential deals. The results? An average of three years at $17 million.
Murti offered up this analysis:
Of the 26 guesses, I tossed out the highest and the lowest. The highest was a $150 million dollar lifetime package, and the lowest was 2 years at $10 million per year. Both those guesses came from team executives. Of the remaining 24 figures, the average terms were 2.9 years at $17.1 million per year. The 13 agents averaged out at 3 yrs, $17.6 million, while 11 executives averaged out at 2.7 years, $16.5 million. Many of these people added possibilities for deferred income, a personal services deal after his playing days, and a 3000-hit marketing/bonus clause.
The year Jeter is coming off in 2010 is the main reason why this exercise is so intriguing. Of the 24 guesses used in the figures above, the AAV (average annual value) ranged as low as $10 million and as high as $23 million. If I polled the same people about Cliff Lee, I doubt I would get as big a disparity in the AAV. And while the agents’ AAV averaged slightly higher than the executives’ guesses, the $23 million guess came from a team exec, acknowledging the deep connection and the deep pockets that play into this equation.
Meanwhile, notes Murti, team executives aren’t the only ones hoping into the Jeter fray. Recently, the members of a sports management class at Manhattanville College proposed a median deal of four years with an $18 million annual salary.
What’s comforting about these proposed deals is how they can placate both sides of the Jeter divide. The salary range — $17-$18 million — is probably more than a team that isn’t the Yankees would pay him, but considering the Yanks’ deep pockets and Jeter’s place in team history, it’s a perfectly reasonable salary for the 36-year-old. The years concern me, but the years have always concerned me. I don’t expect the Yanks to sign Jeter to an optimal two-year deal, and if they go only to three, I can live with it.
In a sense, the handwringing over Jeter has been a true much ado about nothing. He probably won’t be as good as his career triple-slash line — .314/.385/.452 — but odds are good he won’t be as bad offensively as he was in 2010. For three or four years, for $17 or $18 million, for a crack at 3000 hits and another ring, it will work out just fine.