Since Hank Steinbrenner outbid himself for the services of Alex Rodriguez, the Yanks’ General Partner has been generally silent. He hasn’t tried to erupt at the media, and his brother Hal has emerged as the public face of the franchise. Still, now and then, Hank speaks, and we cringe a bit. Yesterday, that’s exactly what happened.
In an interview with AP on Thursday, Hank spoke generally about the Yankees. He thinks the Yanks are going to repeat; he likes the additions of Nick Johnson and Javier Vazquez; yadda, yadda, yadda. They are the typical comments of a General Partner on the eve of Spring Training.
One thing that Hank said bears a little bit of scrutiny, though. When asked about Derek Jeter’s impossible-to-ignore pending free agency, Hank had a few words to share. “We’ll get into all of that eventually,” Steinbrenner told AP. “Jeter’s place in Yankee history is obvious, so I think you can pretty much assume from there.”
Ah, yes, let’s make some assumptions based upon what Derek Jeter has done over the course of his career. We knew this was coming, and Jeter probably deserves the payday that awaits him. However, it’s tough for the Yankees on a budget to justify this future expenditure to such an extreme degree.
Once or twice this winter, we’ve looked at Derek Jeter’s career and his contract status. We saw him win a fifth World Series ring, and we heard false rumors of an impending three-year extension. We know that Derek Jeter is a shortstop with a career OPS+ of 121 and a batting line of .317/.388/.459 who sits on the edge of 3000 hits. He will get paid.
When Johnny Damon and the Yankees seemingly finalized their divorce, Damon spoke about how he hopes the Yanks don’t treat Jeter the same way they treated him. Of course, that was a bit of hyperbole on Damon’s behalf because the Yanks were never attached to Damon the same way they are connected to Jeter. They won’t throw out Jeter with the bathwater as they did Damon. He will get his due.
The bigger question right now isn’t an “if”; it’s a “should.” The Yankees have millions of dollars committed to Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, and Mark Teixeira. The latter two make up a core of players at the right age playing out their peak years with the Yankees, and A-Rod, while older than we’d like, is still a great player. Now they have to figure out how to approach the old guard as Jeter and Mariano Rivera will be without contracts in 10 months, with Jorge Posada following a year later.
We know that the Yankees will reward these players. We know the team will spend what it takes to keep them around. We know the trio will see the dollars flow their way when the time comes. But the Yankees, as with any other business, operate with a business and with a goal in mind. Does signing Derek Jeter to an above-market deal make sense in that regard? Probably not. Yet, he will get paid. After all, Hank said so.