Answering Jeter’s defenders

Talking to fellow Yankee fans or listening to sports talk radio, you hear the same arguments being made over and over again by those who take Jeter’s side in these negotiations. I’ll recount them one by one and try to answer them as succinctly as possible.

“They paid Kei Igawa/Carl Pavano/insert bum here XX mil and they can’t pay Derek?”

This is the ‘repeat your mistakes’ argument. They made a bad deal here or there, so why not repeat it with Derek, who’s been a terrific Yankee. There are many problems with this argument, but I’ll try to sum it up this way. None of these people would be making this argument if it was their money being spent. Further the Yanks are very rich, very financially sophisticated bunch. This should provide the answer as to why they don’t do stupid things with their money, at least not intentionally. Giving a 36 year old who already looks washed up an above market 4 to 5 year deal would be taking most of that money and setting it on fire. It’s also self defeating if you’re a fan who wants to see the team win. The Yanks do have a budget, a high one to be sure, but taking up large amounts of budget space with unproductive players is a great way to lose games. Unlike Igawa, they can’t bury an unproductive Derek at AAA.

“How can they pay Alex and not pay Derek?”

Because they’re not in the same class as players, not even close. That was the underlying point I was making in my light-hearted modest proposal piece the other day. As stupid as that A-Rod contract was the day it was signed, the circumstances couldn’t have been any more different. Alex was 32 and coming off an MVP season (his 3rd, Derek has none) which was arguably the best season any right handed hitter ever had at the old Yankee stadium. Derek is coming off the worst showing of his career and many observers (myself included) think his bat has slowed. Also, if you think back to late 2007 you’ll remember that ownership and management was in a bit of flux at the time. George was ceding the reigns and Stienbrenner brothers Hank and Hal had yet to establish a functional ownership structure. Alex had Warren Buffet set up a direct meeting with ownership through a Goldman Sacks connection, and Scott Boras took the two novice owners to the cleaners, over the objections of their GM. Brian Cashman now runs these negotiations, in large part due to ownership understanding the mistake they made with Alex.

“Just give him the money”

And they haven’t already? They’ve already paid him more than any other player in Baseball history not named Alex Rodriguez, with a 45 mil parting gift tacked on for good measure. Here’s the table from BR:

Career Salaries (may be incomplete) Single-Season Salaries
Rank Player Career Salary Player Year Team Salary
1. Alex Rodriguez $264,416,252 Alex Rodriguez 2009 NYY $33,000,000
2. Derek Jeter $205,430,000 Alex Rodriguez 2010 NYY $33,000,000
3. Manny Ramirez $204,807,769 Alex Rodriguez 2008 NYY $28,000,000
4. Barry Bonds $188,245,322 Alex Rodriguez 2005 NYY $26,000,000
5. Randy Johnson $175,550,019 CC Sabathia 2010 NYY $24,285,714
6. Gary Sheffield $168,008,550 Manny Ramirez 2009 LAD $23,854,494
7. Greg Maddux $153,845,000 Jason Giambi 2007 NYY $23,428,571
8. Ken Griffey $151,703,682 Jason Giambi 2008 NYY $23,428,571
9. Carlos Delgado $146,299,000 Alex Rodriguez 2007 NYY $22,708,525
10. Pedro Martinez $146,259,585 Derek Jeter 2010 NYY $22,600,000

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The current offer of 15 per year would pay Derek 2 mil more per year than any other SS in the game today, many of whom are better players at this stage of his career. Derek was 10th at his position in OPS and has long been at or near the bottom at his position by most advanced defensive metrics. They have paid him, and at 36 there is substantial risk in paying him based on current performance levels, since his skills figure to erode further over the next few years. The fact of the matter is the 3/45 deal is exceedingly generous when put in context. As Brian Cashman said, shop it around and see how it looks then. 

18 thoughts on “Answering Jeter’s defenders

  1. Completely agree. But in Jeter’s defense he was robbed of at least one mvp. I think at 15 million a year they are over paying him and he deserves some just not 23 a yr.

  2. I just added the BR Career salaries table for those who somehow think the Yanks haven’t paid him already. Make that “overpaid him already”. Compare Derek to some of the other names on that list, it’s a joke. Bonds, Rodriguez, Ramirez, Sheffield, Griffey. . . .and Jeter. Which of these don’t belong?

  3. I haven’t been able to work this into a piece, so I’ll just post it here.

    Vince Gennaro, who consults on strategy for several major league teams, said, “As a nameless, faceless shortstop, I have him worth $10 million to $11 million, but as Derek Jeter, I have him worth about $20 million.”

    In 2011, Gennaro said, a little more than half of that value would be as an athlete, but in future seasons, “his performance value goes down as his marquee value ascends.”

    He added, “In reality, his value as a brand-builder will grow long after his skills diminish.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/sports/baseball/10jeter.html

    Vince Gennaro thinks he’s worth about 20 mil per to the Yanks. The article was about how a star of Jeter’s level adds to the mystique and aura that is the Yankees. That’s true, but it only goes so far. You also have to balance these business interests against Baseball interests. The fact of the matter is Derek’s decline is a better storyline and would be more compelling for YES ratings than Eduardo Nunez having a nice, league average season for the Yanks. But the team on the field would be better served if Derek’s production falls below that of Nunez. Winning solves all, and Derek playing SS at age 40/41 (as he wishes) or even taking up a roster spot at big money at that age has to be viewed as hindering their ability to win.

  4. To me, the fact that he sits above Manny and Bonds in all time salary tells me all I need to know about the Yankees generosity. Portraying their offer / approach to this negotiation as anything but rational and prudent is complete fiction

  5. Any chance you could address the guys who are saying Cash/Stein/Levine have been disrespecting Jeter, dragging his name through the mud, or dismissing him as just another player?

  6. RIGHT ON!

    Great points and a great article.

    I am a Yankees Season ticket holder. My invoice came today. Derek Jeter is not signed. There is a chance he won’t be a Yankee next year. Nonetheless, I’m still sending in my payment for my 2011 tickets. Jeter or no Jeter.

    The Yankees organization is trying to build a winner and still honor Jeter with a generous contract. If he can’t see that… well…

    I hope Jeter is a Yankee at 3/$45 – OR LESS – but if he’s not – and was somehow disrespected for being the seond highest player in MLB history, well, Derek, have fun in Florida or L.A. or San Francisco when 13,000 fans see your 3,000th hit and the empty feeling in your heart can’t be fixed with any amount of money…

  7. Getting sick of the small minority saying get rid of him. Quick question. Who plays SS? I don’t get y anyone cares what he gets paid.

  8. I haven’t seen any serious person say, “Get rid of Jeter.” I have seen many people say that they don’t want an old shortstop signed for more than 3 years and they don’t want a player clearly in the decline phase of his career commanding large amounts of money that may preclude the Yankees from getting other necessary talent during the years of the contract.

    The Yankees have a budget. They’re offering Jeter a contact that would make him the highest paid shortstop in MLB.

    That’s more than fair.

    The Jeter camp always claimed that he was a winner (and he has been) and that he was all about the team. Well, here’s where we really find that out.

    I want him to stay. I also don’t want the Yankees to overpay in years or dollars more than they’ve already offered.

  9. Co-signed!

    Since Jeter and his agent are so strongly suggesting that he provides alot of value to the brand, is it possible to pay Jeter is some form of off the field contract for achievements, etc. This would probably have to go through the MLB but at least in this case, some of the money will not go against the salary cap. Similar to A-Rod’s hr milestone bonuses.

  10. Getting sick of the small minority saying get rid of him. Quick question. Who plays SS? I don’t get y anyone cares what he gets paid.  (Quote)

    Most of us are Yankee fans first, Jeter fans second (or third or fourth or whatever). Believe it or not the Yankees do have a budget, and what they pay Jeter does affect what they can do in the future. The reported $7-8m per year difference between the Yankee and Jeter camps can go a long way towards shoring up the bench and bullpen.

    And while most of us acknowlege that there is a chance that Jeter defies them, the odds are a 37-40 year old shortstop will be a liability on the field. To tie up large amounts of money in a player, any player, in a vital position at the end of his career is never a good idea if you plan on building a contending team.