Crazy Talk

Yes, it is crazy to think about Jeter in Dodger blue. It is crazy to think about Jeter wearing anything other than Yankee pinstripes.  Jeter as a Dodger is a crazy thought because the Dodgers are strapped for cash, what with their ownership fighting tooth and nail in divorce court.  It is crazy because the Dodgers already have an excellent shortstop, one of the best in baseball, Rafael Furcal, who produced 4.1 fWAR in two-thirds of a season in 2010.

Jeter could only play for the Dodgers if he agreed to play a position other than shortstop.  But where else might Jeter play?  The Dodgers have $5.25 million committed in 2011 to Casey Blake, so presumably there’s no room for Jeter at third base.  But what about second base? Ryan Theriot manned second base for the Dodgers after his acquisition from the Cubs, but he produced a 0.0 fWAR in 2010 and the Dodgers may not tender him an offer in 2011.  Theriot’s backup at 2B is Jamey Carroll, but Carroll is also the Dodgers’ backup at shortstop and third base.  The Dodgers might be in the market for a good second baseman like …

… like Derek Jeter? Jeter at second base?  Really?

Why not?  It’s been suggested many times that Jeter is too old to play shortstop full time.  Second base is a less demanding position.  Actually, I’m not finding many examples of second basemen who fielded their position well at Jeter’s age, but assuming that Jeter could adjust to life on the right side of the second base bag, Jeter should fare no worse at second than he has at shortstop.

Would the Dodgers match the Yankees’ offer of $15 million per year?  Not a chance.  They’d probably offer Jeter a base salary of $8 to $10 million per year.  But what the Dodgers could do is pack Jeter’s contract with incentives.  Dodger attendance declined this year – 2010 attendance was roughly 44,000 per game, third best in baseball (behind the Yankees), compared to around 46,500 per game (ahead of the Yankees) in 2009.  If Jeter could restore the Dodgers’ attendance to 2009 levels, that extra 2,500 fans per game (at an average ticket price of $44) would be worth about $9,000,000 in extra revenue to the Dodgers.  The Dodgers could easily afford to offer Jeter an attendance-based incentive of $4,000,000 if they reached 2009 attendance levels, more than that if the Dodgers broke their all-time attendance record of around 47,600 a game (set in 2007).

The Dodgers might offer an extra bonus if the Dodgers’ 2011 attendance exceeded that of the Yankees.  If they did that, they would also be advised to announce it publicly.  People in LA are competitive when it comes to New York.  (Disclosure: I live in LA)  I think people would turn out to Dodger Stadium in extra numbers, just to try to stick it to the Yankees.

The Dodgers could offer Jeter an extra bonus if the team made it to the World Series in 2011.  There’d be little risk in offering such a bonus – we’ve already reported on the money a team can make in the post-season, and it doesn’t look like the Dodgers are going to make the post-season without Jeter.  Jeter can then announce that one reason for his move to LA is to meet the challenge of bringing a World Championship to the Dodgers – a team that hasn’t won it all since 1988, when another winner (guy named Kirk Gibson) pushed the team over the top.

The World Series business is another reason why Jeter might consider LA.  Jeter has five World Championship rings … but he can’t really say that he brought a championship to New York.  When Jeter played his first full season for the Yankees, in 1996, the team was already pretty good.  In 2009, when the Yankees won a World Series after a nine-year drought, the difference was thought to be a new crop of players like Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia.  Jeter could be for the Dodgers in 2011 what Teixiera was for the Yankees in 2009: a difference-maker.

Jeter could also come to LA to help out his old buddy, Donny “Baseball” Mattingly.  Actually, I don’t know if these two guys are friends.  But Mattingly is about to take over as manager of the Dodgers, and he’s never managed a baseball team before (outside of the Arizona Fall League, where he’s had at least one embarrassing rookie moment).  Jeter’s presence in the Dodger clubhouse might bring some needed leadership to the Boys in Blue while Mattingly got himself established.

Jeter’s presence in LA would do something even more important: it would remove the stench left over from the McCourt’s divorce trial.  The Dodgers’ standing in LA is at an all-time low.  Jeter would restore some luster to the franchise.

Speaking of luster … LA is a town that loves star power, and Jeter is a star.  This town practically fawned over Manny Ramirez, simply because he was quirky (also because he hit for an insane 1.232 OPS in his first few months in LA).  LA would practically lose its collective mind over Derek Jeter.

And this is where the idea of Jeter as a Dodger starts to truly make sense.  We all struggle with the idea of Jeter playing for the Washington Nationals, or the Houston Astros, or the Seattle Mariners.  What would Jeter do if he had to play on a small stage, away from the bright lights and the big city?  It’s like trying to imagine Angelina Jolie performing dinner theatre somewhere in Indiana.  But LA is not a small stage.  LA is movies and Hollywood; when it comes to glitz and money, LA is the equal of New York.  Jeter’s star quality, his endorsement value, his fame and market power, would only grow if he came to Los Angeles.  He’d become the prince of two coasts, the guy who conquered two leagues and two media centers.

Jeter might make more money outside of baseball as a Dodger than he could as a Yankee.  He’d certainly get more attention.  Other than Kobe Bryant, Jeter would OWN the attention of LA sports fans.

A few minor points to add: Jeter would enjoy hitting against the somewhat weaker pitching in the National League.  He’d have to face intense and probably unpleasant scrutiny the few games a year he’d play at Citi Field, but he would not have to play against the Yankees in 2011 (except perhaps in a World Series).

All of this would be possible … so long as Jeter would accept a base salary about half of what the Yankees have offered … and if Jeter was willing to play second base.

OK, sure.  We all know that Jeter will be playing shortstop for the Yankees in 2011, just like he’s done for the 15 preceding years and every single game of his major league career.  The idea of Jeter playing second base for the Dodgers … is crazy.  Crazy, crazy, crazy.

And maybe I’m crazy too.  Because the more I think about Jeter as a Dodger, the less crazy it seems to me.

What the heck.  Cashman has practically dared Jeter to test the market.  It wouldn’t hurt Jeter to just fly out here, and talk things over with Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly.  If only to call Cashman’s bluff.

Late Note: I’m not the only one having crazy thoughts. Jeter as a Tampa Bay Ray? If nothing else, it’s starting to dawn on people that Jeter might play somewhere other than the Bronx next year.

19 thoughts on “Crazy Talk

  1. I was with you until you said Jeter was moving to 2nd base. Jeter wasn't willing to move to 3rd base for A-Rod, he thinks he's worth as much or more than A-Rod, but now he's taking less money and moving to 2nd base….. I understand that the object is tor propose theories here, or at least create discussion, but this seems even a huge stretch for any imagination.

  2. Ben, point me to a cite if you have one, but I don't remember that Jeter "wasn't willing to move". What I remember (confirmed here: is that A-Rod volunteered to move in order to get the trade done. Jeter was the incumbent at the shortstop position, A-Rod recognized he was the low man when it came to seniority … something like that.

    There's been a lot of talk about Jeter's being unwilling to give up the shortstop position, but to my knowledge he's never said so. At the moment, it happens to be the case that the Yankees need Jeter to play shortstop, and the Yankees really don't have another position on the field for Jeter to play.

    One think I like about my "crazy" proposal is that it gives Jeter the opportunity to do what A-Rod did, to switch positions out of respect for the incumbent at shortstop for the Dodgers. That would prove wrong a lot of the nasty things being said by the Jeter-bashing crowd.

    Granted, it's "crazy" to think of Jeter switching positions. But Dave Cameron is right, there does not appear to be an attractive offer anywhere (other than the Yankees) for Jeter to play shortstop. If he's going to open up his options, he needs to consider filling a hole somewhere at a different position. That's NOT a crazy idea, standing alone. It's what A-Rod did, and if memory serves, things turned out OK for A-Rod.

    • If Jeter is going to be this stubborn about the number of years he wants, it tells me he thinks he can play forever. If he thinks he can do that, it doesn't suggest he's ready to move off short. The one option I didn't see was to simply move Furcal to second. He almost agreed to do so when he flirted with coming back to the Braves, and therefore, he's at least publicly thought about it. It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense, but even in LA, it's going to be Jeter getting the respect, not Furcal.

  3. Mark, I could more easily reach the opposite conclusion, that Jeter is holding out for a long extension because he doesn't PLAN to play shortstop forever. Think about it this way: if Eli Manning wants to play football until he's 50, he'd probably be advised to switch positions to, say, placekicker.

    As for Furcal moving to 2B, why should he? UZR shows he's the better-fielding shortstop.

  4. That's what I meant when I said it didn't make a whole lot of sense from a baseball standpoint. Furcal is the better SS and more likely to be better next season, but if you're the Dodgers and want Jeter, you could ask Furcal to move instead. From what Close has said, Jeter wants to play shortstop, and I'm guessing the Gold Glove doesn't help. Jeter doesn't have a lot of options while everyone thinks he wants $20 million a year, but if he decided to stick it to the Yankees (which seems to be the idea behind this hypothetical), he could ask for $8-10 MM. If he does that, I could imagine several teams jumping in on Jeter, and if the Dodgers want him, they may need to clear SS for him.

    • Mark, I mentioned the Dodgers as a possibility for a number of reasons. The intangibles that Jeter brings to the field — veteran leadership, star power, a reputation for class and playing the game clean — are all things that the Dodgers desperately need right now. Plus, they have a gaping hole in the middle infield. Plus, the Dodgers COULD load the Jeter deal with incentives, and with the Hollywood connection, Jeter could conceivably make more money as a Dodger (even at a base salary of $8MM) than he ever could as a Yankee.

      There are two parts of my proposal that are truly crazy. The first is that the Dodgers might have the money to make any kind of offer to Jeter. The second is Jeter playing second base. But way back in the day, no one figured A-Rod for third base either. It seems obvious to me: if what Jeter is looking for is the best offer he can get from one of the 29 other teams, then he needs to be as flexible as he can be. I'm not one of those who believes that Jeter wants to play SS until he's 45. I think Jeter has too much pride to be willing to embarrass himself on the field (and at least by Gold Glove standards, he's not currently embarrassing himself).

      Jeter is a proud man who does not like to lose. Cashman has all but begged Jeter to come up with a better offer than the one the Yanks have offered. I can't see Jeter not at least trying to rise to that challenge. If Jeter's choice is to tell Cashman that he could not get an offer … or that he could get an offer if he switched to second base … which do you think would be more appealing to Jeter?

      • Okay, I'm seeing what you're saying. The Dodgers wouldn't have to move Furcal because they already are the only ones who would be able to offer those other things. But I still sense that Jeter is proud enough that he wants to play at SS, and what I was saying is that Furcal might be willing to move as well to sweeten the deal. The Dodgers don't want to be used, but they may not want to lose out on Jeter, either. But it would certainly take a creative offer like the one you're suggesting to bring him away from NY, and I don't see a more logical location.

        • LA is the only place I can imagine where Jeter could say to himself, to Cashman and to the rest of us that he's getting a better deal than the one the Yanks have offered him. THAT part of what I've written is not crazy.

          As for the rest of it? My assumption is that if this made any sense, someone smarter than me would already have suggested this. I wrote the post not because I think there's a chance in hell that the Dodgers get involved in this, but because Jeter's going to have to think outside of the box to come up with a decent counteroffer at this point.

  5. Not exactly on topic but deals with life after Jeter, but does anyone think it's possible that Cano gets move to shortstop (considering his range and great arm) after Jeter is gone whenever that may be? My friend mentioned it to me recently and I thought it was an interesting thought.

  6. There's 3 teams that make a bit of sense for Jeter…


    Rule out the Mets…. they just cheaped out on the manager, no way they offer Jeter a lot of money hoping he makes it back for them at the box office

    Cubs…. Personally, in a vacuum I think this makes the most sense, if Jeter ever went there and helped them win a title… it really wouldn't matter where he played, where he hit in the lineup, or how much money he made, he'd be a legend in chicago

    Dodgers….. you did a good job with this article…. but I just think the Cubs make more sense, if we assume that shortstop isn't available at either place, I think the Cubs offer Jeter more upside

  7. Where would he play on the Cubs? First base? I don't follow the Cubs. True enough, if Jeter joined the Cubs and they won a World Series, they'd rename the city after him. But the odds against a Cubs World Series are daunting. If that's Jeter's upside for going to the south side, I don't think it's enough of an upside. Not with Hollywood beckoning.

    Not that Hollywood IS beckoning. Just trying to spin an alternative for Jeter to shove down Cashman's throat.

  8. Like I said….. it wouldn't matter if he was a pinch hitter… Jeter goes to the cubs, they win a world series…. he becomes a legend in new york and a legend in chicago… imho the two greatest cities in his country (with apologies to LA)

  9. I think what this points out is how unlikely it is that Jeter ever leaves the Yanks. Who wants to take a big(er) pay cut, change positions, and move just to spite Randy Levine? Jeter's BATNA (best alternative to a negotiated agreement) is fairly lousy. The Yanks' is no picnic, either, but Jeters' is much worse.

  10. You've got me still stuck on Angelina Jolie at that dinner theater in Indiana. Please don't tell me she's playing Lola in Damn Yankees.

    • I was thinking of a touring company of "Pride of the Yankees". Angelina could play Minka Kelly.