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From Joel Sherman:
Second, the good news for the Yanks is that Jeter is a competent shortstop again; the bad news is he is a competent shortstop again.
At age 35, he was the AL’s best all-around shortstop last year, finishing third in the MVP vote, winning a Gold Glove (more deservedly than in the past) and being a force on a champion. He is in the same training regimen for the third straight offseason and if 2010 resembles 2009, the Yanks will be very pleased, well, until negotiations begin.
This would have been a different negotiation if Jeter was holding on as a left fielder or DH, being kept around mostly for emeritus reasons. Now the Yanks almost certainly will have to treat Jeter as the current and future shortstop of the team, and not the kind of defensive liability that enabled them to play hardball in pushing Williams and Damon off the roster.
I would not paint Jeter’s defensive renaissance as bad news. Yes, it does make negotiations a bit more difficult in terms of keeping Jeter’s cost down. However, I think that it is highly likely that the Yankees would have been forced to pay Jeter an exorbitant sum regardless of what position he might have been headed for. This contract, as unfortunate as this may be, is likely to be just as much a reward for past performance as it is compensation for future contributions. I firmly believed prior to 2009 that he would get around 18-20 million a season for 3-4 years, and he simply put himself at the upper end of those ranges with his great season. Another great season may add a few million to those totals, but it is unlikely that it will move the contract into an area that the Yankees cannot afford or will be unwilling to pay. As such, the fact that he has improved defensively can only be a good thing.
If Jeter continues to display his newfound defensive prowess in 2010, the Yankees will simply be paying big dollars to someone they believe can remain at his position for a number of years, as opposed to someone who might have to learn a new position at some point during the life of the contract. Derek Jeter was always going to get a large contract. Now it seems like he actually has a chance to earn it.
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