I've had Derek Jeter for so long in my oldest league that I think he might have still been in high school when I signed him as a free agent. Or Little League. Or in the womb. I'm not sure. Anyway, I know I've had Jeter in this league since he was a rookie on the Yankees, and since my league charges real money if you keep a player for more than a few years, I'm faced with paying real money.
That's right, I'm talking about paying cash out of my pocket for a player who has helped me enjoy great success in a league, but if I would just deal the guy for someone similar, I wouldn't have to pay a dime. Of course, I've tried. The purpose of this action of paying for players, obviously, is to help force league-wide player movement, and to make it so someone doesn't do what I have done and keep a player his entire career. Really, no matter what the money is, I know the spirit of the rule, and I shouldn't have waited this long.
The problem is, I'm not having much luck moving Jeter, and our keeper deadline is, well, tonight at midnight. I don't think too many people in the league like Jeter, for starters, but also it's a bit of a strategy issue. Everyone knows if I keep Jeter I'd have to throw a good deal of money into the overall pot, the most in the league by far, so why give me fair value? I don't mind paying for players, per se, but I've had Miguel Cabrera for four years and the cost to stick with him in 2008 is akin to paying for a Big Mac meal. Not that I've bought, um, any, recently or would know what they cost. Yes, dear, I'm following my diet. Nothing but salads when in Bristol, promise. My cost for Jeter is a filet mignon, with a side of lobster. And a nice salad. And dessert.
So, my leaguemates are playing the game the right way. Make me work for it! I'd do the same to them. However, I think in this case, most of them just don't like Jeter, and really, I have to wonder whether I do. For most of this decade, I have to admit, if I made a spring training overrated list, Jeter was very likely to show up on it. Hey, he's a terrific player, but he doesn't hit for as much power as people think, runs enough to matter about every third year, and shortstop isn't as shallow as it was when he was starting out. ESPN fantasy games ranks Jeter No. 30 overall, and fourth at shortstop, and I don't have a big problem with either, but I'd probably wait a bit longer. As for pure value, Troy Tulowitzki, Rafael Furcal and Michael Young, in my opinion, are far better choices in the spots they are going than Jeter, and all are younger.
Jeter has been overrated for so long in fantasy, I wonder if he's become a bit underrated now. He does do some things very well, you know, and I hardly want to give the impression he's not good at his craft. Well, he's arguably the most overrated defensive player in the game, but that doesn't affect fantasy. Also, owning Jeter in fantasy doesn't give you a leader to help, say, Alex Gordon mature. Doesn't work that way. Offensively, The Captain does have a career .317 batting average, and he nearly won the batting title as recently as 2006. He stole 34 bases that season, but last year it was only 15, and there are no guarantees he runs more anytime soon. His home run output isn't bad at all for a shortstop, but it's not elite, not as it has dropped from 23 to 19 to 14 to 12. One can count on a very good batting average from Jeter, as well as durability and lots of runs scored. The reality is his numbers really haven't changed all that much in the past few seasons, so don't expect him to hit a wall and see sharp decline. He remains largely consistent, and thus might be a bit underrated, though not by his ESPN ranking.
Of course, I haven't had much luck dealing him, and it's not that I've been asking for Jimmy Rollins in return. I don't want to anger any of my leaguemates in this forum, but a few of the offers have been ridiculous. I can and might deal Jeter straight up for Michael Young, even though I rank one player around 35 and the other 60, but under the circumstances it makes sense and I am starting to realize that's quite a large difference, probably too large. See, something good comes from this, I'll probably move Young up in my rankings. I can also deal Jeter for Hideki Matsui, Chris Carpenter or Paul Konerko, I think. Joakim Soria? Michael Cuddyer? The funny thing is, once I deal Jeter, I'll realize he's not so difficult to replace on a fantasy team. I already realize it, I think, but in a reverse way, I'm still surprised I haven't moved him yet. How tough can it be to trade one really good player?
Jeter's name puts him in a fantasy class he probably doesn't belong in on draft day, but he still provides very good numbers. Being a member of the New York Yankees, and showing up on your television every All-Star Game and in October tends to make players seem like something they might not be. Nothing against small-market franchises, but Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates aren't overrated in fantasy. That's good news if you hope to steal Zack Greinke or Freddy Sanchez a bit later in your drafts.
Anyway, here are five others like Jeter in this respect, good players, but maybe not as good statistically as one thinks. So, to answer the prime question here, I guess I'm saying he's still overrated, though not as much as you think.
Manny Ramirez, OF, Red Sox: He was recently dealt in the same league I'm trying to move Jeter for Jason Bay, Ben Sheets and Huston Street. I'll take the side with the three players, though the reason that guy made the move was because he had extra keepers, and yes, Manny is the best player in the deal. Ramirez has a total of 55 home runs and 190 RBIs the past two seasons, so I'm not quite sure why anyone expects anything near the 45-144 campaign of 2005. We project .310-34-109, and I think that sounds about right. Then again, can't a healthy Bay presumably get into that power neighborhood? Manny is Manny, and his name still resonates. Someone's going to say in round three or four, "Man, he should be off the board, no?" Not sure I agree.
Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: Yes, it's true this guy was a borderline first-round pick entering 2007, as he came off a .308-42-117 season, and now he's nice value if you get him in round four or five, but I'm not prepared to go much higher than that. He doesn't have first base eligibility, only once in four seasons has he played more than 140 games, and I think he'd need to hit for average and power to be a top-30 player. I'm not convinced his 2007 season isn't his new baseline.
Bobby Abreu, OF, Yankees: He runs a little, produces a bit of power and his overall stats end up inflated because he hits third in a powerful Yankees lineup, but so what? It's like complaining about Matt Holliday playing half his games at Coors. Abreu is still a very good player, but I bet most people who draft him think he can still be a 30/30 player. I do not.
Roy Halladay, P, Blue Jays: The wins are nice, you can pretty much count on a solid ERA and WHIP, but if you make this guy your fantasy ace, I hope you're aware that a durable Halladay ranks No. 45 in strikeouts over the past two seasons. Again, the other numbers are fine, especially the 32-12 record, but among the pitchers with more K's in two seasons are Chris Capuano, Curt Schilling, Barry Zito and Kevin Millwood. Ian Snell has 75 more strikeouts. Snell's not a fantasy ace, but I don't think Halladay is either. He and Tim Hudson just don't strike out enough hitters for me.
Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers: I remember the season in Philly he went 14-14 in home runs and stolen bases. That was 2003. The next season he hit 17 home runs. Last year when he nearly won the batting title, he didn't reach double digits in homers or steals. I like Polanco, and truly do appreciate batting average, but I have to take Aaron Hill and his potential 20 home runs over him, as well as Kelly Johnson, Dustin Pedroia and certainly Rickie Weeks.