Dancing with Derek for the first time


Now that Derek Jeter is a free agent for the very first time in his 16-year Major League career, Yankee fans are beside themselves. Some seem to wonder why the Yanks are intent on screwing over Jeter while others believe Jeter is being incredibly selfish. Most are just going to sit back and let the tale play out, calm in the knowledge that the Yanks and Jeter will reach a deal fair to both sides.

I fall in the third camp. Thus when a report comes out that says the Yanks will “overpay” for Jeter’s services, I sit back and yawn. This wasn’t news a year ago; it’s not news today. Of course, the Yanks will give Jeter more than he’d get on a purely open market. He’s a marketable face of the franchise, and as long as they overpay in dollars and not years, it won’t have a significant long-term impact on the Yanks’ chances on the field.

So as we wait for Jeter-mania to play itself out, let’s hop in the Wayback Machine and revisit Derek Jeter’s last contract negotiation. It was a different time for the Yankees. They hadn’t had embraced their financial might to the same extent that they do today, and baseball salaries hadn’t yet exploded as they would following A-Rod‘s, Manny Ramirez’s, Mike Hampton’s and, of course, Jeter’s deal during the winter of 2000-2001.

The story starts after the 1999 season. Jeter had just played his age 25 season, and he was already a Yankee legend in the making. With a .318/.389/.465 line and three World Series rings, the next great Yankee was staking his claim to a big pay day. He had earned himself a $5 million deal for 1999, and in his second year of arbitration, he had asked for a record-setting $10.5 million award.

The Yankees knew it would behoove them to act. They knew that A-Rod’s looming free agency following the 2000 season would set the market, and 12 months before A-Rod signed his deal with the Rangers, the $200 million figure swirled in the winter winds. But before that record-setting winter arrived, the Yankees and Casey Close tried to lock up Jeter to a long-term deal.

As Buster Olney reported in January of 2000, the Yankees were prepared to offer a record-setting deal to their young short stop. The two sides were expected to wrap up negotiations before the end of January, and the deal was believed to be for seven years and $118.5 million. Running from 2001-2007, it would have been the largest deal in baseball history and second in professional sports only to Kevin Garnett’s six-year, $126-million contract. While the average annual salary of $19.75 million seemed steep then, Yankee officials expected it to be a bargain by the time it expired after the 2007 season.

But George Steinbrenner got cold feet. At the time, Steinbrenner didn’t like to flaunt the Yanks’ fiscal might, and he never liked to saddle his young stars with long-term deals. He wanted them to earn it. That hesitancy combined with the fact that, as subsequent reports stated, he didn’t want to make Jeter the game’s top earner led the Yankees to wait on a deal. Bob Klapisch opined that the Boss never intended to make Jeter the highest-paid player and floated the figures to the media gauge the other owners’ reactions. Steinbrenner, wrote Klapisch, didn’t want to “be accused of buying championships” or “ruining baseball’s economy.” Those were the days.

After the Yanks downed the Mets in the 2000 Subway Series and Jeter took home the All Star and World Series MVP, the team acted. Jack Curry speculated that Jeter’s deal would be for eight or nine years at $18.5 million a pop. He wasn’t far off. Throughout the winter of 2000-2001, the New York media watched the Jeter negotiations closely, and a deal didn’t materialize quickly. Buster Olney noted how it would be costly to the Yanks, and as January wore on without a contract in place, Tom Keegan of The Post urged Jeter to hit free agency and sign with the Mets.

In early February, the deal was done. The Yanks and Jeter were in it for the long haul at 10 years and $189 million. Jeter wound up making, as Anthony McCarron noted, around $8 million more over the first seven years of his contract than he would have had the Boss not gotten cold feet a year earlier. The contract did not come with an opt-out and was heavily backloaded to allow the Yanks financial flexibility — for Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi — in the early years. “It’s lower in the early years to help us go out and sign guys,” baseball’s then-second-highest paid player said.

A handful of players — Mark Teixeira, Joe Mauer, CC Sabathia and Johan Santana, among them — have made more money on an annual basis than Jeter, but since Jeter signed that deal in 2001, only Alex Rodriguez has signed a longer deal for more money. I can’t help but wonder what deal Jeter would have signed after his 2007 campaign. It would have been a far better for his wallet had he hit free agency then. With A-Rod and Jeter both on the open market, the Yanks would have been in some financial pickle.

But now is the time of Jeter’s free agency, and we’ll keep waiting for that deal to be signed. It’ll happen before too long. I’m not worried.

Photo: Derek Jeter accepts his 1996 Rookie of the Year Award. He is 21. (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

Categories : Days of Yore


  1. mbonzo says:

    Overpay for Jeter? He just won another gold glove!

    Seriously though, I think people are underestimating what he’d get on an open market with very few shortstops. Despite his awful season he was surprisingly the best SS hitting-wise in the American League. He’s also only 1 year off from a .330 season. I’ve heard of regression, but a .060 batting average drop is indication of something bigger than age, I think it has something to do with his knee tendinitis. I’d say he hits about .280-.290 next year and continue to regress for the next couple of years (fangraphs thinks .295/.365) Otherway, he’s the best short stop on a very limited market and despite the thought that he’d only have value in NY, imagine how the media would react if another team picked him up. He’ll probably receive 16-18 million a year from the Yankees, but I’d say he’s worth 11-13 million a year on the open market.

    • JGS says:

      I’ve heard of regression, but a .060 batting average drop is indication of something bigger than age

      You sure about that?

      Obviously, not all of those are comparable, but huge, precipitous dropoffs in batting average as a player ages are far from unheard of.

      • mbonzo says:

        And all those guys had bounce back years. Not like they hit a certain age and then they lost .060 points overnight.

        • jim p says:

          Roberto Alamar. Though his drop was .70.

          • Chris says:

            Considering that he (reportedly) had full blown AIDS diagnosed after he stopped playing, he’s probably not the best comparison.

          • Rumors aside, Robbie Alomar is the #1 statistical comp for Derek according to BR. From a numbers perspective, they’re essentially the same player.

            • Januz says:

              I simply do not care what BA says about statistical comps. Jeter and Alomar are very different players, on and off the field. On the field, their position is different: It is a fact, that elite shortstop is harder to find. Think about the fact that not one shortstop in the history of MLB, has 3,000 hits. But off the diamond is where the biggest difference is. Jeter is the face of the Yankees, and is respected throughout baseball (Even in Boston), while Alomar is a low life who spreads AIDS to women.
              Is Jeter the player he used to be? No he is not, but comments like Harper comparing him to a guy 15 years younger (Andrus), is simply par for the course. People in the media have always knocked him, for being “Inferior” to someone. For example: I remember the comparisons between him, Nomar, A-Rod & Tejada. Then between him and Reyes. In each case, Jeter came out second best. But guess what? While Jeter’s reputation is intact, two of the four have been outed as cheaters (A-Rod & Tejada), one is out of baseball (Nomar), and the other (Reyes), has diminished to the point where even Met fans acknowledge a diminished Jeter is superior to him.

    • OldYanksFan says:

      “…. he’s worth 11-13 million a year on the open market.”
      I’d say for a 1 yr deal… yes. Certainly a contending team, and maybe SF would jump on that. For 2 years, my guess is 2/$20m. 3 years? Based on his age, size and position, I’m not sure anyone would go 3 years, unless the 3rd year was really cheap…. say 3/$24.

      Do you agree with my numbers?
      So it would seem like 3/$45m would be giving Jeter at least a 50% bump for being ‘the Face’.

      However, I’m guessing it comes out at 3/$50m.

  2. Kiersten says:

    Too tired to read the article now, but omg that picture. My 8-year-old self was in love with that.

  3. All Star Carl says:

    Nice haircut brah

  4. Matt DiBari says:

    He looks 20 years younger there.

  5. Mike Ri says:

    God look at Jeter in that Picture makes me feel old ! . . I remember being in High School ! and the Yanks had the dynasty rolling !! . . AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH the good old Years . .I could talk smack and NOBODY could say anything ! .

    Jeter your older now. But your still the man in my eyes !!

  6. mryankee says:

    I do not understand why these contracts take so long, for example the Jter/Rivera thing shold be done. They know they want to come back the Ynakees want them back what is the hold up? The Lee thing is the same deal, make the offer work it out and get it done, why would it take two months to decide between Texas/Ny?

  7. As Ben said in yesterday’s open thread, there have been very polarized reactions on both sides of this topic. Given that, I’m surprised there have been so few comments here. Maybe it’s just a very tiny but loud minority on both sides, with most of us figuring a deal will get done.;FEEDNAME=

    I did love Joel Sherman’s take this morning. Offer him arb…hmmmm….that’s a good one. One year, who cares if you overpay. You’re going to overpay anyway.

    • Zack says:

      …Jeter could try to beat his frenemy Alex Rodriguez, not in total dollars but with a one-year contract for more than the average annual value ($27.5 million) of A-Rod’s 10-year contract. Before you say “no way,” understand what one veteran of the process said of arguing before three arbitrators who might not be baseball fans but will definitely know who Jeter is: “At some point the stats all become mind-numbing and so do comparables to other players. The arbitrators get attracted to special accomplishments.”

      Great system we got here. Guys who don’t know the sport, making decisions that affect the sport.

      • Ed says:

        In a way that’s a good thing – it forces you to have a concise, clear argument to back your case.

        Even on very state minded site like RAB, you’re going to get into big disagreements over which stats are valuable. Or look at leading stat sites like Baseball Reference and FanGraphs – they both have very different ideas of player value. I think the odds of the arbitrators agreeing with any particular person’s personal values are fairly low, so we’d still be complaining.

        Then of course you get to issues like guys like Joe Morgan – you’d think he would understand the game well, but his announcing work shows a terrible understanding of the game.

        Not saying the current process is great – things like wins getting overvalued are a clear example of the problems. But I think it could be a lot worse than we realize.

  8. larryf says:

    So Nunez was Triple A SS all-star and Double A SS all-star 2 years ago. Give Jeets money but not years. We have a pretty good backup at SS and 3rd for 4-500K for a few more years.

  9. Dan says:

    haha ben getting called out on boomer and carton… anyone else hear it?

      • Dan says:

        his assessment of jeter not being a gold glover. They were going to try to get him to come on the show.

        It was basically going to be an advanced statistics vs. fielding percentage debate.

        • pat says:

          Oh man, that would have been pretty awesome.

        • Unfortunately, Wednesdays aren’t great. I missed their first call while in the shower and just spent the last 25 minutes in the subway. I doubt I’ll be on today.

          • Dan says:

            you should call in tomorrow.

          • Mister Delaware says:

            I feel like Boomer would be such an easy convert. A WR analogy, how their only statistical demerit is drops but there are times they very obviously run the wrong route / quit on a route / don’t touch a pass where they’re just as much or more at fault. Jeter doesn’t drop balls he gets to, but he doesn’t get to as many as most. Done.

            Next topic: Why Wesley Walker should have gotten far more press for being a half-blind WR.

  10. Another Bronx Dynasty says:

    Love Jeter as he is the face of the dynasty & regardless of last yr he is clutch.

    However it would be very interesting if A-Rod wound up in Fenway & stayed at SS the comparison defensively today.

    Offensively – A-Rod in Fenway would be hitting 60+ HRs / yr

  11. Yank the Frank says:

    Derek Jeter? He’s got an edge.

  12. Big Stein says:

    wow. Jeter already had a major receding hair line at age 21. What a bitch.

  13. Big Stein says:

    wow. Jeter already had a major receding hair line at age 21.

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