Since 2001, New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has been in the top six highest paid players in Major League Baseball. He’s currently the third highest paid player in the game, making $22.6 million in 2010. Jeter, who has made $205 million during his career, will become a free agent after this season.
The question is not whether the Yankees will re-sign Jeter, it’s for how long and for how much? In 2009, Jeter showed no signs of slowing down, hitting .334 with 18 home runs with an OPS of .871, good enough to finish third in the MVP race. It appeared then that Jeter would keep his top-paid-player status, but in 2010, the final year of his 10-year, $189 million deal, the captain has struggled.
Here’s a comparison of stats from ’09-’10:
09 - .334 AVG / .406 OBP / .871 OPS / 18 home runs / 30 stolen bases / 72 walks
10 - .262 / .329 / .698 / 10 homeruns / 16 steals / 54 walks
In more advanced stats, the numbers become increasingly bleak. Jeter’s OPS+ is 86, down from 124 last year. He’s hit into 20 double-players, batting in either the No. 1 or 2 spot in the lineup. Jeter’s “clutch” stats have suffered, batting .250 with runners in scoring position, .222 with men on base and between innings 7-9, he’s batting .213 with a .572 OPS. Jeter’s batting average when the ball is hit in play is under .300, his career BAbip is .355.
The fielding hasn’t been much better. Despite having only six errors, the shortstop’s range has diminished. His career range factor is 4.13, this season it’s a career low 3.74. His range factor per game is also a career worst 3.58. The league average for range factor is 4.42 and 4.37 per game.
Where does this leave the Yankees?
The Yankees know Jeter’s performance this year has been in the range of a replacement player or below, his worth is still very important to the franchise. Jeter was named Major League Baseball’s most marketable player. He is a huge hit with Yankees’ sponsors (watch YES Network, you’ll see) and even more of a hit with fans. It is unlikely Yankee fans would take Jeter’s range factor as an explanation for letting go the most popular player since Mickey Mantle.
The Yankees have only filled 88.6 percent of Yankee Stadium this year. Jeter is on pace to get his 3000th hit next season, he’s 97 hits away (as of 9/14), this means that 88 percent will increase to 110 percent over the waning days of his chase. The opportunities to make money from the captain’s accomplishment are virtually limitless. It will be a ratings bonanza for The Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network (YES), as well as merchandise (merchandise sales are split evenly among all teams) and concessions madness. The 3000th hit also offers value that cannot be quantified: it improves the Yankees’ brand, increases good will and directs the sports world’s eye to the Bronx.
The poiint: Jeter will still be playing for the Yankees next season. How much and for how long are the question. As you will see, the range of contracts of similar players is enormous, but none of the players listed had a chance to prove their worth in the playoffs as Jeter does this year.
SELECT READ MORE TO SEE SIMILAR PLAYERS TO JETER THAT SIGNED CONTRACTS IN THE LAST YEAR, AND MORE
Similar plate appearances to Derek Jeter who signed contracts within the last year
- Max – $6 million
- Final - $1.375 million
Ken Griffey Jr.
- Max -$12.5 million
- Final - $2.35 million
- Max - $10 million
- Final -$3 million
- Max -$13 million
- Final - $8 million
- Max - $15.667 million
- Final - $1.5 million
- Max - $12.6 million
- Final - $500,000
- Max -$12.86 million
- Final - $3.75 million
- Max -$14.81 million
- Final - $6 million
- Max - $15.5 million
- Final -$9 million
- Max -$23.43 million
- Final -$1.75 million
- Max -$14.73 million
- Final -$500,000
Jeter’s current $22 million salary is almost completely out of the question, as is a deal extending past 2 years. The only way the captain can salvage his value is in the playoffs. In 637 career plate appearances during the playoffs, Jeter’s numbers look like this .313 AVG / .383 OBP / .479 SLG / .863 OPS.
One contract that sticks out among aging stars who received deals recently is Johnny Damon. If Jeter has a great playoffs, as Damon did last year, he could bag himself somewhere in the range of two years, $35-$40 million. If Jeter has a poor playoffs, the Yankees may try for a one year deal and with a team option with a significantly lower payday. The 2000 World Series was the last time Jeter was playing for a contract, during that series the captain hit .409 with an astronomical 1.344 OPS. He proved his worth in October then, and has the chance to do it again in 2010.
Several writers for Yankiest.com weighed in on their Jeter contract predictions and came out around four years, $20 million per year. If the Yankees win the World Series and Jeter performs, this is plausible, but not otherwise.
We saw aging star Jason Varitek struggle to get a contract after falling off significantly and having an awful post-season in 2008 (hit .050 in the '08 ALCS). After maxing out at $11 million, the Red Sox captain was paid just $3 million this season. He was given a one-year deal with a player option for 2010. The Yankees will likely give Jeter a bigger pay out than the Sox gave Varitek even if Jeter doesn't do well this post-season. But, had Varitek played well in the '08 playoffs, he likely would have garnered near the $11 million he was paid previously.
What is most interesting about Jeter’s upcoming contract, is that the Varitek situation and any other for an aging star doesnt't seem to fit. No player in this era has ever been as important to their franchise (from a marketing and post-season standpoint) as Derek Jeter.
Matthew Coller is a senior staff member of the Business of Sports Network, and is a freelance writer. He can be followed on Twitter
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