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What they’re saying about Derek Jeter

Like it or not, Derek Jeter will dominate New York headlines until he and the Yankees reach an agreement. We all have our opinions on what the Yankees should offer him, but that means little in determining what they will offer. All we can do is look to people who are closer to the people involved and see how they’re interpreting events. Of course, we can then interpret their interpretations, based on what we know about them as writers and reporters.

Just today we’ve seen plenty of takes on how the talks are going. The Yankees plan to make Jeter an offer soon, perhaps as early as today, and it’s not expected to exceed three years or around $15 million in average annual value. That would signal that he’s going to get more, if this is the Yankees’ opening bid. But will Jeter be insulted by the proposed pay cut?

As Joel Sherman writes this morning, the Yankees are trying to keep this thing respectful:

And [respect] is quite the devilish word in these negotiations, because the Yankees are trying to find the right way to pay Derek Jeter for his present value without disrespecting his legacy and his standing with the fans. In other words: What do you offer a player based on the current facts — 37 next year, coming off his worst offensive season, with dying range at short?

That’s not an easy task to accomplish, of course. Jeter has been worth plenty to the franchise. But haven’t they already compensated him for that? Didn’t they hand him a 10-year, $189 million contract after the 2000 season? I think that money, plus all the endorsement deals Jeter has signed because he’s the face of the Yankees franchise, adequately covers his past value to the franchise. In other words, they’ve already respected him for the past.

Steve Politi at the Ledger, in what has to be a play to drum up outrage, makes some specious connections as he tries to argue for overpaying Jeter.

This is the overlooked number with Jeter: 1,705,263. That was the Yankees attendance in 1995, the year before Jeter became the everyday shortstop in the Bronx. It was actually below the American League average.

Four championships and 14 years later, when the team played its final season at the old Yankee Stadium, that number had climbed to 4,298,655 — and, as any fan can tell you, the ticket price climbed right along with it.

The team moved to its giant ATM of a ballpark and started the YES Network, becoming the Bronx branch of the U.S. mint along the way. They were worth $185 million in ’95, and according to Forbes, that value is now $1.5 billion. Plenty of players had a hand in that, but Jeter tops the list.

Where do we even start with this assertion? First, 1995 was the year following the strike. The Yankees were actually good for the first time in a long time during the 1994 strike season, and I know that fans were beyond disappointed that the season ended in August. I’m sure that played into the diminished attendance. And yes, Jeter showed up in 96 and won four championships. But he’ll be the first to tell you that pitching had everything to do with those.

Plus, if you want to talk attendance you have to talk about Alex Rodriguez. In 2003 the Yankees led the league with 3,465,640 attendees. That’s quite a considerable leap from 1995, but again that was in large part because of the championships and general interest climbing as the sport moved further away from the attendance-killing strike. In 2004 attendance jumped to 3.775 million. In 2005 it crossed the 4 million mark. So why don’t we attribute these attendance records to A-Rod? Because it’s ridiculous to do so. Yet Politi does it for Jeter.

The $185 million to $1.5 billion franchise valuation? Again, that’s largely because of the championships, but also because of inflation and general economic growth. The sport became more valuable, hence its marquee franchise became more valuable. Jeter played a role, for sure, but the championships played a bigger role. Jeter was just one of 25 on that championship team.

Again, this is a blatant attempt to manufacture outrage. The Yankees have paid Jeter for the past. Why do they need to pay him for it again?

(Politi also makes the argument that baseball is entertainment and Derek Jeter entertains. OK. And if he’s terrible in Year 3 of the deal, will he remain entertaining? Have you listened to Yankees fans talk?)

If you thought Politi’s assertion was willfully ignorant, look at Bill Madden:

In the aftermath of all the rhetoric coming out of the owners’ meetings in Orlando, it appears Derek Jeter is about to join the ranks of Thurman Munson, Reggie Jackson and Dave Righetti in learning the hard reality of free agency as practiced by the Steinbrenner Yankees: More often than not, they are willing to pay more for somebody else’s free agent than for their own.

Because they didn’t pay Mariano Rivera more than any other team would have paid him. Ditto Jorge Posada and Alex Rodriguez. Andy Pettitte at $16 million in 2008? No one else was matching that. What about Jeter himself in 2000? Was any other team going to give him a 10-year contract at nearly $200 million?

For a really good read on Jeter, check out Keith Olbermann’s latest. It nicely balances the Yankees should overpay for Jeter articles. It puts his current situation into perspective, rather than yelling that the Yankees should pay him for his past performance. This is not the Derek Jeter who signed a 10-year contract for his ages 27 through 36 seasons. This is the Derek Jeter who will turn 37 next year. Why should the Yankees overpay him?

Mailbag: AzFL, MiL Free Agents, Nova, Wood

In this week’s edition of the RAB Mailbag we’re going to talk about some general minor league stuff, plus Ivan Nova, the free agent market for relievers, and the concept of adding a second Wildcard team. If you want to submit a question, send it in via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

Ari asks: What level of ball is the AZ Fall League considered equivalent to (A, AA, AAA, etc)? Are some of the winter ball leagues considered better than the others? Thanks.

The rules stipulate that each team has to send at least six players (most send seven) to the Arizona Fall League, and that just one can have played at a level lower than Double-A that season. Considering that, plus the fact that the league also features a plethora of top prospects, I’d put the level of competition a little bit higher than Double-A. Not quite Triple-A because you don’t have pitchers with considerable big league experience and stuff like that, but it’s certainly a step up from Double-A. Especially for the guys on the mound, it’s just a brutal league for pitchers given the extreme run environment.

I honestly don’t know about the level of competition in the Latin American winter leagues, it’s very much a mixed bag. You’ll find established big leaguers and kids from Single-A playing in the same game. I suspect the AzFL is the cream of the crop though, you don’t see many top prospects playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and stuff.

Mike asks: When a minor league free agent (7 plus years of minor league experience) signs a deal is it generally year to year of can it be multiyear deals?

It’s six full years (though there’s usually a partial seventh) to qualify for minor league free agency, and from what I understand most go year-to-year after that. Players with big league experience will have opt-out clauses written into the deal, meaning if they’re not in the majors by a certain date they an become free agents. That’s why Dustin Moseley was called up, his opt-out date was coming up and the Yanks didn’t want to lose him. For guys with no big league experience, they’re basically hanging on at that point. If they were any kind of prospect they’d have been placed on the 40-man (thus remaining with their previous organization). But yeah, it’s usually year-by-year. It’s understandable why teams wouldn’t want to sign Triple-A fodder to a multi-year deal.

Mark asks: Is it safe to assume that Ivan Nova replaces Andy Pettitte in the rotation if he retires this offseason or do you see them acquiring a second veteran starter besides Cliff Lee?

I certainly wouldn’t call it a lock, but I agree that Nova stepping into the fifth starter’s spot should Pettitte retire is a safe bet. That’s only if they sign Lee though; if the Yanks don’t land the lefty and they have to settle for a lesser starter, then I don’t think they can gamble on Nova establishing himself as a big leaguer. If they can’t sign Lee and add all that certainly, then they’ll have to basically go out and get two veteran guys instead. He’s that good and is that tough to replace. Perhaps the Yanks are more confident in Nova than I, but that’s why Brian Cashman & Co. make the big bucks.

Ethan asks: With deals given so far (Benoit in particular), are the Yankees more likely to offer Wood arbitration? I assume that Berkman and Vasquez are still no?

For the record, I said yes to offering arbitration to Puma. Javy’s an absolute no-no, but hopefully the Marlins sign him before next Tuesday’s deadline and the Yanks get the draft pick anyway. Cross your fingers.

As for Wood, I don’t think the absurd Benoit contract changes anything. Sure, it might make him and his agent think there’s more money out there than previously thought, but the issue is Wood’s 2010 salary. He made ten-and-a-frickin-half million dollars in 2010, so if he accepts arbitration he’s looking at at least $11M in 2011. Wood was flat out awesome for the Yankees, but no setup man is worth that much cash, especially not one that old (33) and with that kind of injury history.

Even with the Benoit deal it’s a stretch to see Wood getting $11M guaranteed on the open market, regardless if it’s a one year deal or two or three. I love draft picks as much as the next guy, but a reliever making that much dough will severely limit the Yankees’ payroll flexibility next year. I appreciate what Kerry did in pinstripes, but offering him arbitration just isn’t a smart business move.

Keane asks: What do you think of extended playoffs being ‘almost inevitable?’ It barely helps the sport at all, makes a long season even longer and nothing is being done about replay. Is Selig doing the right thing here?

I’m not surprised that the idea of another Wildcard team is going over well with the GM’s, it means more job security for them. I’m sure the owners will love it as well, it means more revenue. And you know what? I’ll probably be great for the game and create more interest, so in that sense Selig is doing the right thing.

I don’t know how they’d work this with five playoff teams, but I assume the two WC clubs would meet before the LDS’s begin. If it’s a best-of-three or five series it’ll completely suck, because that means the other four clubs have basically a week off and there are that many more off days. A one game playoff would be amazingly entertaining but completely unfair in the grand scheme of things, a 162 game season potentially ending because anything can happen in one game. I dunno, I’m intrigued but I tend to believe a second WC spot is unnecessary.

You make a great point about replay, Selig appears to be much more behind the idea of expanded playoffs than he does instant replay even though it isn’t nearly as pressing. The umpiring around the league generally sucks, and fixing that is far more important than making sure the team with the fifth best record in the league gets a crack at the postseason. If it was up to me, I’d just send the teams with the four best records in each league to the playoffs regardless of division. You’d need a balanced schedule for that, which is another topic for another mailbag.

What Went Right: Berkman & Wood

The Yankees have made a habit out of plugging holes at the trade deadline when their internal options don’t work out, most famously grabbing Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. to shore up the bench for the 2009 World Series run. This season was no different, as Brian Cashman pulled off a trio of moves on July 31st. Austin Kearns didn’t exactly work out, but the other two moves certainly did…

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Lance Berkman

Once the Nick Johnson experiment failed in glorious fashion, the Yankees spent the better part of the summer searching for a designated hitter. Jorge Posada filled in most of the time, partly due to nagging injuries and partly because Joe Girardi fell head over heels in love with Frankie Cervelli. Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames also chipped in some at DH from time to time, but it was obvious that the team needed a full-time DH going forward.

With the Astros way out of contention, long-time ‘Stro Lance Berkman agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join his buddy Andy Pettitte in New York and have a shot at the World Series. His first 40 plate appearances in pinstripes were largely unimpressive, a .281 wOBA that was reliant more on walks that anything else. Berkman sprained his ankle running out a ground ball in Kansas City and sat out the rest of the month, rejoining the team when the rosters expanded on September 1st.

From that point on, Fat Elvis looked a lot like the guy with four career top five finishes in the NL MVP voting. He hit .299 the rest of the way with a cool .400 on-base percentage, and although there was little (if any) power production, Berkman was reaching base at the terrific rate near the bottom of the lineup. He was then one of the few consistently productive bats in the postseason, driving in two runs in Game Two of the ALDS and replacing the injured Mark Teixeira at first base in the ALCS. All told, Berkman hit .313/.368/.688 (.427 wOBA) in the postseason, and once he came off the disabled list in September he was one of the team’s most productive bats.

Kerry Wood

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

It’s hard to believe that when the Yankees acquired Wood, he hadn’t pitched off a big league mound in close to three weeks. He had been on the disabled list with blisters and was activated just in time for the transaction to go through. That was also his second stint on the DL of the year, as he missed the first five weeks of the season with shoulder issues. Wood actually threw more innings for the Yankees (26) than he did for the Indians (20) this year. Thankfully those 26 innings were high quality.

Wood began his Yankee career working various middle relief stints, often recording more than three outs. By the time September rolled around he had pitched his way into that all important eighth inning role, setting up Mariano Rivera for the remained of the regular season plus postseason. The full body of work featured a 10.7 K/9 and just two runs scored in those 26 innings, and in the playoffs he added another eight innings of two run ball. With the season on the line in Game Five of the ALCS, he threw two scoreless inning to bridge the gap between starter CC Sabathia and Mo in the ninth.

As good as Wood was with New York, let’s not kid ourselves, there was some luck involved. His .235 BABIP was about 50 points below his career mark, and his strand rate was a completely unsustainable 98.1%. League average is around 72%. He walked 18 guys in those 26 innings but just one (one!) came around to score. They say it’s better to be lucky than good, especially when it comes to bullpen, so Kerry Wood’s stint in pinstripes gets a A+.

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Both Berkman and Wood were popular players with their previous teams, but they accepted lesser roles with the Yankees and thrived. I thought Berkman was especially impressive; a guy that had spent his entire career hitting in the middle of the Houston’s lineup and was the toast of his hometown, accepting what was essentially a platoon DH role when he could have just stayed home close to his family. The Yankees didn’t reach their ultimate goal this season, but the contributions of Lance Berkman and Kerry Wood are certainly appreciated.

A glimpse at the Notre Dame/Army secondary market

Yankee Stadium hosts a sporting event this weekend as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Army Black Knights in the new stadium’s inaugural football game. For the Yanks, this is a key moment for the House that George Built because they need this non-baseball events to be successful to help offset the costs of building the new facility, and early indications are that this game will have more than 51,000 fans in attendance.

If you’re still looking for tickets or thinking about going at the spur of the moment, our partners at TiqIQ have over 360 tickets available, and their numbers show that the game at Yankee Stadium is outpacing the game Notre Dame played against Navy at the new Meadowlands Stadium last month.

Meanwhile, for those bound for the stadium, Metro-North will be running extra trains through the Yankee Stadium stop both before and after the game. The full details for train service are right here.

Open Thread: More on Scottie Allen

We'll always have that walk-off walk, Juan. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Earlier today the Yankees shipped the out-of-options Juan Miranda to the Diamondbacks for Single-A right-hander Scottie Allen. I hadn’t heard of Allen before today so needless to say I couldn’t add much of value, but thankfully Baseball America came through with a scouting report this afternoon. Take it away (no subs. req’d)…

Allen throws four pitches, three of which grade as average at times, but lacks the one dominating offering to put batters away. He sinks his fastball at 87-91 mph and occasionally breaks out a swing-and-miss slider in the high 70s or a changeup in the same range. His curveball is less refined, but he’s around the zone with it and all his pitches. Wiry strong, Allen has a quick arm, but he tends to tire visibly by the fourth inning. Still, he’s worth taking a flier on because he’s a teenager who already shows a feel for pitching.

By no means is Allen a great prospect, as I said in today’s Radio Show, but it’s certainly an interesting arm. Better than losing Miranda on waivers next April, that’s for sure. You really can’t ask for more in exchange. Anyway, our Depth Chart (and Draft Order Tracker) are now up-to-date. The roster’s looking rather sorry at the moment.

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Here’s tonight’s open thread. The Devils are the only local team in action, but who wants to watch them? They’re 5-11-2 with the third worst record in the NHL. Yikes. Oh, and the Bears are playing the Dolphins, but you need the NFL Network to see that one. You guys know what to do, so have at it.