Jeter = To Throw Away
It’s always amused me that jeter in French means “to throw away,” although, to be fair, Derek Jeter's throwing arm has never been much of a problem. He's got a gun. It's his range that's been the problem (if you're a Yankees fan) or a secret joy (if you're not).
But I'm talking about another kind of throwing away. Of money.
What salary suits a legend most? Baseball fans have been wondering all year—particularly when Jeter's production went down and it became apparent it wasn't going back up.
In 2010, according to ESPN.com, Jeter made $22.6 million in the final year of a long-term deal, and, for all that money, this is what he gave the Yankees: career lows in batting (.270), on-base (.340) and slugging (.370). In the postseason, over 9 games, he posted a .289 on-base percentage from the lead-off position. In the last two games against Texas, as the Yankees went down and out, he never even hit the ball out of the infield.
And he's 36 going on 37.
But he's the Captain. Mr. November. Beloved in the Bronx. Most hits in Yankees history. So what do the Yankees do? And what does Jeter do?
Ben Shpigel of The New York Times wondered about this last week.
Most of what he writes is fine. One graf, though, stands out to anyone who doesn't live in New York:
If this were only about baseball and future production — and not about Jeter’s symbolic importance to the franchise — the Yankees could argue that Jeter, based on his statistics, age and veteran status, might be in line for a 2011 salary that would be half of the $21 million he earned in 2010.
Half $21 million? So $10.5 million? If he wasn't Jeter? That seems absurd. So I did some checking.
Out of the 149 major league players with the qualifying amount of plate appearances in 2010, Jeter ranked 115th in OPS, dead even with Orlando Hudson, the second baseman for Minnesota. Hudson made $5 million last year. And that salary was based on better numbers from the year before (.774 OPS). He might not make that now. And he's four years younger than Jeter.
So let's try the year before: 2009. The goal is to find a shortstop who hit about what Jeter hit in 2010, is about the same age, and became a free agent at the end of the season. And there is a guy. His batting average was higher (.284) but his OBP was lower (.316) but his slugging was higher (.389). Full-time player (656 at-bats). At the end of the season he turned 36. His name is Orlando Cabrera. He became a free agent and signed with the Cincinnati Reds in January 2010. For $2 million.
But that's unfair, too. Cabrera is a lifetime .715 OPS guy. Jeter is a lifetime .837 OPS guy. There's always the hope that Jeter's poor performance in 2010 was based upon some injury. There's the hope he can rebound in 2011.
So is there a guy with similar career numbers as Jeter who had a 2009 similar to Jeter's 2010 and then became a free agent?
Tall order. But Miguel Tejada is kind of close. His lifetime OPS is lower, .801, but he is a former A.L. MVP, a half-time shortstop, and currently only a month older than Jeter. In 2009, when he was 11 months younger than Jeter is now, he had a pretty good season with Houston. Hit .313, slugged .455, led the league in doubles with 46. An OPS of .795. Much higher than Jeter's .710 in 2010. And for all that, in January 2010, Tejada signed a one-year deal with Baltimore. For $6 million.
I have no idea what Jeter will ultimately get from the Yankees. But anyone thinking he'd get $11 million per if he had the stats of Jeter but not the cache of Jeter is in a New York state of mind.