Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Do the Yankees really need Derek Jeter?

We're not even a month removed from the "misfit" San Fransisco Giants winning the World Series and the winter meetings have already become tense. There's plenty of big name players on the market from Texas Rangers ace Cliff Lee to Tampa Bay's Left fielder Carl Crawford. However, no free agent is getting more press right now than "Mr. Yankee" himself, shortstop Derek Jeter. On Sunday, Casey Close, Jeter's agent, told the New York Daily News that the Yankees' negotiating stance to this point has been "baffling."  Mr. Close, I know you  want a big fat commission check, but i think its your stance that is baffling.

The Bronx Bombers have offered Jeter, who will be 37 next season, a three year deal worth $45 million dollars. Not bad for being amidst the worst economy since the great depression and baseball ratings getting destroyed by Snooki and The Jersey Shore. I heard someone on a sports talk radio station the other day say, "Well he's been great for the Yankees for over a decade. He deserves a five year deal for $20 million per for his years of service". Has he not been compensated well for his service? Again, I'm a numbers guy. The numbers tell me Jeter has made $189 million dollars over the last ten years. If Jeter tests the waters of the open market, he will be lucky to get offered seven million a year from another club. I don't think Jeter wants to finish the career with the Baltimore Orioles. He wants to retire where he started, in those pinstripes.

I'm not a Jeter hater. Actually, he's been one of my favorites. Jeter's been a great player over a sustained period of time. He's been clutch in October, but you don't pay $20 million dollars for seven playoff games. His batting average this year was .270, the lowest since his rookie year in 1995. More importantly, his play in the field has gotten progressively worse. The shortstop position more than any other is about speed and agility. The older you get, the slower and less agile you become. Arguably the best four shortstops statically in the game right now are Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins, Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies, Jose Reyes, New York Mets, and Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox. Their average age is 27. While these players are stealing 30-40 bases, Jeter dropped this past season to 18. One of the dilemmas with Jeter is that he's not a power hitter. You can't move him to DH like you can with Alex Rodriguez when he's 40. Is Jeter willing to play outfield? Do you even want him there with athletic Curtis Granderson and young-with-tons of upside Brett Gardner out there?

I admire Derek Jeter for many reasons. Jeter has made monumental contributions to the Yankees organization with his play on the field and being a constant role model off. He's never been linked to steroids or performance enhancing drugs when many of our baseball hero's have fallen from grace. He doesn't get into trouble off the field and is gracious with the media. But, you can not pay someone retroactively for service he provided and was well compensated for in the past. Doing that just isn't good business. The Yankees might have deep pockets, but the idea of spending $22 million a year on a 37 year old shortstop who doesn't hit home runs is absurd. I've said this about other sports and baseball is no different. Baseball is a business and survives off of profit and smart decision making in the front offices. The argument is the Yankees are going to offer Cliff Lee a ridiculous amount of money. Yes, they are and it makes more sense. He's an ace pitcher in his prime who turns up the heat in the postseason.

 If you want to win in the post-season you need a stellar three man rotation. One ace and three other pedestrian pitchers, doesn't get it done. We just experienced "the year of the pitcher" and baseball proved that you need a solid three man rotation to win. Now that performance enhancing drugs aren't affecting the game, pitching is more vital to a teams success than ever in recent memory. It seemed like almost every night, pitchers were flame throwing perfect games or one hitters.

The Yankees don't know what's going to happen with ancient Andy Petite. He's 38 years old and mainly shuts down his arm until the playoffs. "But, what about Phil Hughes? Hughes won 18 games, he's a solid number two starter". I'm sorry, he's not. Put Hughes on any other team and he wins eight games. Pitching wins championships. We just saw it with the Giants a few weeks ago. They held the Phillies to .216 batting average in the NLCS. Then, they held the Rangers, who lived off their big bats and led the majors with a .276 average in the regular season to .190 average in the World Series. So, I don't buy the argument that the Yankees just throw money at players. They throw money at players they feel are the right ones to win. And, just because they overpaid for A.J. Burnett (who had a big part in their 2009 World Series win against the Phillies), does that mean they have to over pay for Jeter? The Yankee organization knows that Jeter won't get half of what he will if he stays with the them. The GM for the Yankees Brian Cashman said it best,

"There is nothing baffling about our position," Cashman told the New York Daily News ."We have been very honest and direct with them, not through the press. We feel our offer is appropriate and fair."

Again , I'm not knocking Derek Jeter. He's great in the locker room,a proven leader and winner. This is a what have you done for me lately world and his production is only going to deteriorate further next season.  He's been paid $189 million for his services and the Yankees offer of $15 million a year for 3 years is out of respect, not the value he brings to the field at this point in his career. I don't think Jeter wants to end his career off the grid. Players that are well-known with the Yankees and leave are forgotten. Hideki Matsui who won world series MVP and Johnny Damon were in the limelight playing for the Yankees and now have fallen off the map.  Derek needs the Yankees infinitely more than the Yankees need him. Fans won't stop coming to the game because Jeter isn't there. Fans would only stop coming if the Yankees lose and Jeter has no effect on that either way anymore. The Yankees can afford to bring one of rising star shortstops in and they would get more production out of the position and cost them less. I believe Jeter will be a Yankee, he just needs to sign on the dotted line.

It was announced yesterday that Joey Votto, first baseman for the Cincinnati Reds won the National League MVP award. At 26, he is one of the rising stars of the Majors and was a significant piece of making the Reds relevant for the first time in twenty years. Now, Joey made $500,000 this year. I know some lawyers and catering directors who make more than that. Derek Jeter with his $22 million dollar salary this past season made 45 times what Votto made and Jeter has never been a regular season MVP.

"We appreciate the contributions Derek has made to our organization and we have made it clear to them. Our primary focus is his on-the-field performance the last couple of years in conjunction with his age, and we have some concerns in that area that need to be addressed in a multi year deal going forward." This quote by the Yankee brass sums it all up. Remember, they still have to deal with the aging Posada, A-Rod, and Rivera.

We are in for some interesting off-seasons.

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