The Derek Jeter news these days is flowing fast and furious. As the Yankees, with a line straight of Harry Potter, reportedly want Jeter and his people to “drink the reality potion,” negotiations are at a stand-still. The Yanks’ three-year, $45-million offer remains on the table, and while Jeter is believed to want a deal worth around $23-$24 million annually for four or five years, he has not yet made a formal proposal.
Time waits for no man though. While the Yanks and Jeter have not spoken since before the Thanksgiving holiday, the rest of baseball is moving ahead apace without Jeter, and various contract signings could impact the Captain’s baseball future. First, short stop Juan Uribe signed a three-year, $21-million deal with the Dodgers to play second base. Then, the Rockies and Troy Tulowitzki moved closer on a deal that will extend the Colorado short stop through 2020 and pay him between $115-$120 million over the final six seasons — his ages 30-35 seasons — of his deal.
In a sense, Jeter’s leverage just went up in smoke. One middle infielder not nearly as good as Jeter has been or can be signed for just $7 million a season while a 26-year-old stud will earn around $160 million over the next ten seasons. Besides the fact that he’s Derek Jeter, can Casey Close possibly justify a contract with a higher average annual value than Tulowitzki’s? Should the Yankees reduce their offer to Jeter? It wouldn’t be out of the realm of the ordinary.
Meanwhile, what we do know is that the Yankees are waiting. They’re waiting for Jeter to make a firm offer so they can make a counterproposal. They’re waiting to see what Jeter’s camp expects, and they’re waiting for a clear sense of the years and dollars it will take to re-up with the captain. In discussions amongst the three of us, Joe says he wouldn’t be surprised if the Yanks reached a three-year deal with the Jeter for $60 million and an option for the fourth. In light of the Tulowitzki deal, the dollars might give us pause, but after a certain point, the Yankees don’t care about the money.
Rather, for Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenner brothers, the overarching issue has to be about the years. The 2011 season will be Jeter’s age 37 season, and if he signs for only three years, he’ll have a guaranteed contract that covers his ages 37-39 years. In all of baseball history, only 68 players have averaged 120 games or more, and the successful among them have been power hitting outfielders or first basemen. The list of players who have done so while playing at least 50 percent of their games at short looks a little bit like this:
In other words, Derek Jeter, who is bound for the Hall of the Fame, would have to defy age to be worth a three-year commitment, and that’s without factoring in the dollars. Anything more than three years is bordering on the irresponsibility for a Yankee braintrust trying to win a winning ballclub. Since 1901, only seven times has a player 40 or older made it through at least 100 games with 50 percent of them at short. Only two of those players have taken the field since 1949.
The results are similarly dire for those who play second base, and the Yankees do not have the luxury of moving Derek Jeter off of short. Were Jeter to sign with another team, it’s likely that he wouldn’t be expected to play short, but the Yankees have Alex Rodriguez anchoring third, Mark Teixeira signed at first for another six years and Robinson Cano ensconced at second. The outfield is full, and Jeter’s offense doesn’t profile as a DH — or as a left fielder for that matter. For the Yankees, he’s a short stop teetering on the edge of old age for a baseball player.
The Yankees know this. That’s why they’ve been in no rush to offer another year or add more to the pot of dollars. For Derek, that reality potion has a bitter taste, but if and when he drinks it, he just might find no better deal out there than the one the Yanks are offering today.