The incredibly reliable Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported today that the Yankees are already worried about what to do when Derek Jeter’s contract expires. Jeter becomes a free agent after the 2010 season. While his 200 million dollar contract was one of the better-deserved large contracts in baseball, he will no doubt be on the decline by that time. Jeter is an institution in New York, and the Yankees will hardly be able to make a clean break with him like they did with Jason Giambi or Bobby Abreu.
Moshe already covered much of this issue, so I won’t go into the numbers. I think that there are several key questions that the Yankees will have to consider in two years:
- 1. Will Derek Jeter’s ego allow a position switch?
- 2. Will Derek Jeter’s ego allow a pay cut?
- 3. Do the Yankees have a replacement for Derek Jeter ready to go?
- 4. How productive is he still?
- 5. What positions are available to move him to?
Will ego stand in the way? I think it is very possible. Jeter is by all accounts a great guy and an able captain, but he also has an ego. We saw how unwilling Andy Pettitte was to take a large pay cut, despite losing much of his effectiveness. Players who are stll productive view salary as a status symbol as much as a monetary reward. Jeter may not be willing to go from making 20 million a year playing shortstop to 8 million per year playing left field. Center field seems like a more prestigious position, and he might therefore be persuaded to go there over another position.
What about replacements? There are likely to be no decent internal solutions. The best shortstop prospects in our system are both young and full of question marks. The Yankees could theoretically draft a star college shortstop in the 2009 draft, but he would neither be likely ready for spring training 2011 nor are strong college shortstops all that common. The free agent market is thin, offering only J.J. Hardy from the Brewers.
What about production? Jeter has declined in every offensive category for three straight years. His bat is still very valuable as a premium defensive position, but his poor defense is beginning to weigh heavy against his offense. I think that Jeter will stabilize around .300/.360/.400 for a few seasons, but that production would make him a liability at any of the corner spots. It seems to me that if the Yankees are going to keep Derek Jeter, it better be at shortstop, 2nd base, or center field.
The right baseball decision is probably to let him leave. Letting him leave is probably the wrong business and public relations decision. The Yankees have to find a spot for Jeter. If I’m Brett Gardner or Austin Jackson, I don’t count on playing center for long.
(Tip of my hat to MLBTR)
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