Jeter contract situation

February, 6, 2009
Nope. When it comes to Derek Jeter, it's not too early to talk about Derek Jeter, whose massive contract expires at the end of the 2010 season. In the Post, here's Joel Sherman:

    But as we learned again this week with Torre, there are not many happily-ever-afters in these situations -- and the issues and potential stress points with someone as beloved as Jeter only make the ticking clock toward November 2010 hover more ominously.

    "I might not make 2011," Cashman said. "I am dealing with 2009."

    That is the right public answer. But know this -- Yankee officials already talk privately about dreading D(erek)-Day.

    After all, what team official wants to tell Jeter he has to take a pay cut or has to move positions or -- gulp -- just has to move on? How would you like that on your baseball epitaph: You were the Yankee executive who told Derek Jeter thanks for the memories?

    Of course, the alternative is not too appetizing either. Because kowtowing to Jeter's legacy by paying him lavishly and keeping him at short means tying yourself to a late-30s icon well beyond his expiration date.

    As if the matter needs complications, Jeter will conclude his current 10-year, $189 million contract on the doorstep of 3,000 hits, a total never reached by a Yankee.

    And, really, do we need complications? He is Derek Freaking Jeter. He is the very definition of Yankee. How do you explain being tied to Alex Rodriguez for 10 years, but cutting relationships with Jeter?

    But how do you decide to make this a popularity contest rather than a baseball team? How do you decide to ignore all the obvious data that screams be heartless, even with Jeter?

Derek Jeter can't play shortstop in 2011. Not for the Yankees, anyway. Everyone knows this. Cal Ripken was an institution, too, but he shifted to third base when he was 36. Of course, that path probably won't be open to Jeter because A-Rod will presumably still be good enough to play third base (and neither of them can move to first, where Mark Teixeira is locked in for many years).

I'm sure the Steinbrothers would love to see Derek Jeter wearing pinstripes forever, but I believe they're even more infatuated with winning, and in two years it's going to be terribly obvious that spending $20 million on a 37-year-old shortstop who can't play shortstop may be tantamount to losing. So I think we can dispense with the speculation, because I'm ready to tell you right now: It's just not going to happen. The Yankees will have a younger and better shortstop in 2011.

Where does that leave Cap'n Jetes? That's mostly up to him. I also believe the Yankees will try to keep him in the fold, perhaps with a $10 million salary (chump change for them) and the vague promise of semi-regular playing time as a sort of utility player. And my guess is that he'll accept. Because given his obviously diminishing skills, it's likely to be the best offer he gets. By a lot.


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