May 25, 2010

Jeter’s future, contract & defense analysis

When your team is losing, you start to blame the strugglers. And Mark Teixeira isn’t the only one struggling this season.

The entire country saw two grounders slip under Derek Jeter’s glove while ranging to his left on Sunday Night Baseball. That, and this article from The Faster Times sparked questions of his age, defense and value.

In a sample size of less than two months, which everyone knows is way too short for measuring defense, Jeter is making seven fewer plays to his left and seven more plays to his right than the average shortstop. This ranks him 24th among major league shortstops, according to Baseball Info Solutions.

Let’s say he really is the 24th-ranked shortstop in terms of defense this year. Couple that rank with his seventh-ranked OPS among major league shortstops. Now add the fact that he’s the oldest qualified shortstop in baseball and how much should the Yankees re-sign him for if the season ended today?

Twitter says:

@MyPinstripes: not much, but that's why you don't base it on 3 weeks

@MarcusBlumberg: For real? 5-10 Million $ – with name value 15 million a year at best!

MLB Trade Rumors says:

Jeter is the face of the Yankees, and an extension seems a near-certainty. Based on Heyman's September guess, Jeter's premium could be in the range of $10MM annually, plus an extra year or two.

I agree with all three assessments. But what will Jeter decide? Will he happily accept any realistic offer from his beloved franchise? (That’s what I think.) Will he sell himself to another team? Or, will he decide to hang up the spikes early?

The only thing Jeter has left to accomplish in his Hall of Fame career is reaching 3,000 hits. That’s it. He’s got five rings, he already has the Yankees all-time hit record and he’s made a ton of money.

He is at an even 2,800 hits entering Tuesday, meaning he’d have to hit .380 (I did the math) the rest of the season to eclipse the milestone. In other words, barring a miracle he’ll have to sign one more contract with the Yankees to join the 3,000 hit club.

As many experts say, a team handling a star on the decline is the toughest thing in baseball. I absolutely agree. Does it mean changing positions? A big pay cut? Asking the player to retire? Who knows.

What I do know is Jeter’s performance over the next four (hopefully five) months will play a huge factor in his future with the Yankees.

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