In 2009, at the tender age of 35, Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ all-time hits leader, produced a triple slash line of .334/.406/.465, with 18 home runs, 66 runs batted in and 30 stolen bases. In addition, his wOBA sat at .390, which was the best at his position in the American League and third best at short across both leagues, trailing only Florida’s Hanley Ramirez and Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki (who, by the way, idolizes Jeter). Basically, Jeter had a very Jeterian year, offensively.
Of course, 2009 was also a very un-Jeterian year for Captain Intangibles, in that he shocked sabermetric audiences by having the best defensive season of his Hall of Fame career. His UZR/150 was a remarkable +8.4, a far cry from the negative figures that had infamously plagued him just a few years ago (in 2007, for example, Jeter’s UZR/150 was -16.7). The change, according to most sources, was brought on by good health, a new offseason training regimen designed to increase lateral range (to his left, in particular), and some nifty positioning tips from the new Yankee coaching staff.
All in all, Jeter’s markedly improved defense and consistently excellent offense made him 7.4 wins above replacement (WAR) and a bargain at $20 million (yes, a bargain, as the financial cost per win is around $4.5 million).
However, what was an economic bargain for the Yankees in 2009 could quickly reestablish itself as an economic burden over the winter; for as the team approaches the end of Derek Jeter’s $189 million contract, which finally expires after the 2010 season, many, like Bob Klapisch (FOX Sports), are clamoring for the Yankees to offer Derek Jeter an extension. As Klapisch notes, “There’s no reason to put Jeter on hold,” because by doing so, they’re simply delaying the inevitable (Klapisch refers to it as a “bad move”). Therefore, extend Jeter now, as not doing so is “counter-intuitive.”
Though, initially, Klapisch’s call to extend may sound like a good idea given Jeter’s stellar ’09 campaign—a campaign which saw Mr. Minka go above and beyond the levels of production seen from most players at his position (and his age bracket)—and the altogether awkward prospect of Derek Jeter in contractual limbo during free agency, when one actually attempts to remove some of the subjectivity from the issue and reflect upon the extension proposition through an analytical eye, it becomes quite clear how problematic and flawed the idea is for the New York Yankees.
Now, as I have repeated throughout this text, Derek Jeter had an excellent season. Basically, when it was all said and done, after the final game of the regular season, Jeter was worth about $33.3 million (based on wins, so that’s 7.4 x 4.5 = 33.3). He delivered typical Jeter production with his bat and atypical Jeter production with his glove (a good thing), making him the best shortstop in the American League. When one then considers his impressive postseason numbers (.344/.432/.562) and his Gehrig-chasing campaign, it’s clear that there can be no higher peak for Jeter’s current value as he has, in no way, shown any signs of the aging process (he improved upon his 2008 season). In fact, Jeter may have had the best overall season of his Hall of Fame career—that’s how good he was in 2009. Also, let’s not forget the hardware he earned this year—a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger—confirming his value (at least to some).
Interestingly enough, with this context in mind, Bob Klapisch is imploring the Yankees to extend Jeter, although he has another year left on his deal. If the Yankees were to follow Klapisch’s advice, they would essentially go into contract negotiations with a blank check, as their leverage power, at this point in time, is nonexistent. Jeter’s particularly productive performance precludes such contractual discussions before they even begin. Despite his age, Sir Flip’s value is at an apex, therefore, isn’t it only logical to wait until after the 2010 season to resign him? Unless he suddenly admits that he has discovered the fountain of youth, there is no way for his value to climb beyond its current point. It would be best for the Yankees to wait until after Jeter’s season to renegotiate a new contract with him as he could have a lesser year, which would potentially help the organization, financially, in that it would provide them some level of bargaining power and save them a couple of million. Even if Jeter has a similar year to 2009, he’ll still be 36 at the end of next season (and 37 in 2011), rather than 35 right now, allowing the Yankees to bargain his price down a bit given his age (regardless of whether or not he played like a 36-year old).
Basically, the Yankees shouldn’t expect to save much when trying to resign Jeter after his contract expires—throughout this piece, I’ve assumed that they will do that—as he’ll still command a $100 million deal or something close to a $100 million deal (maybe more, maybe less), however, offering Jeter an extension now eliminates the possibility of saving any money during negotiations (these saved dollars could be used towards younger players like Joe Mauer). Such a decision would be bad business, plain and simple. The Yankees appear to be aware of this, as there have been reports indicating that the organization will wait until after the season to address Jeter’s contract situation. Klapisch doesn’t seem to acknowledge this perspective, though, as the argument he puts forth is essentially based upon fan thinking and emotive irrationality.
Clearly, I’m not advocating for the Yankees to part ways with Derek Jeter, as he has shown remarkable improvements even as he nears 40; instead, I’m saying it won’t hurt to wait another year before arranging a new commitment. Then, the team can reevaluate the situation and its context, so as to come to an agreement that is both financially responsible and organizationally appropriate.
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images
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