Here's what we concluded at the time:
|Preference||What he'll get|
|Matt||3 years/$36M||4 years/$80M|
|Mike||1 year/$10M||4 years/$80M|
|Larry||1 year/$7.5M||4 years/$80M|
Clearly we were all on the same page as far as what we expect the Yankees to do, though we differed a bit on what we felt Derek was really worth. At the time of that writing, Derek was hitting .261/.329/.369, .314 wOBA and 1.7 fWAR through September 12, a season worth $6.9 million according to Fangraphs.
Derek picked himself up significantly over the season's final weeks, ending the year at .270/.340/.370, .320 wOBA and 2.5 fWAR, for a season worth $9.8 million. As noted yesterday, Derek's wOBA was second among American League shortstops behind Alexei Ramirez, and his fWAR was third, after Ramirez and Cliff Pennington. Derek's career-low OBP was second in the AL to Elvis Andrus and also behind the OBPs of four NL shortstops -- Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Stephen Drew and Starlin Castro.
The Yankees now find themselves over a barrel, having to negotiate with the face of their franchise after the worst season of a 10-year contract that paid him $189 million. For all the talk of the Yankees' endless pockets, it makes zero financial sense for them to overpay their 36-year-old declining shortstop, yet nearly everyone around the game expects them to. New York Magazine even got in on the Derek Jeter speculation this week, with an impressively Saber-friendly Intelligencer one-pager not only citing the aforementioned $9.8M Fangraphs dollar value but also utilizing a shortstop WAR comparison (not to mention quoting our buddy Alex Belth). We can only dream that the New York tabloids could one day take such a progressive, analytical and realistic look at what an iconic, well-past-his-prime player is actually worth.
What would be a fair, market-value offer to Derek Jeter if he weren't Derek Jeter? Clearly Mike's $10 million/year prediction wound up coming the closest. If I were the Yankees, I'd offer a take-it-or-leave-it two-year deal at $10 million per, with a written clause stating that if Derek can't keep his OBP above .350 after April 2011 he is to be moved to the bottom-third of the batting order.
Quite frankly, the thought of the Yankees paying Jeter $20 million a year to lead off and ground out to shortstop on the first pitch of every at-bat while getting on base a mere 34% of the time makes me want to retch, and if the Yankees truly are in the business of winning, the team needs to recognize that allowing Jeter to dictate the terms of where on the diamond he plays and his location in the batting order, not to mention the size and length of his deal, will all negatively impact the team's future ability to compete.
Unfortunately, as mentioned previously, it's not as if the Yankees have many other options. Bill Madden, in one of his typical crazycakes Sunday columns posited that the Yankees believe that Eduardo Nunez could be their starting shortstop of the future. As noted by Steve S. at TYU this obviously hearkens back to "Bubba Crosby is our center fielder," and anyone with a brain knows this is likely another instance of the team trying to drive the trading price of a weak chip up, but it still underscores the paucity of available shortstop talent.
Even if the Yankees did the unthinkable and weren't willing to pay Jeter the king's ransom he'll be demanding, Nunez is no one's idea of a full-time shortstop. According to minorleaguesplits.com's Major League Equivalency calculator, Nunez's 2010 in AAA would equate to a .250/.294/.325 line in the Majors. Numbers that even legendarily bad Yankee shortstop Alvaro Espinoza (career .254/.279/.331) could spit on.
And there aren't exactly a slew of appealing free-agent options out there. Unless you believe J.J. Hardy can ever again come anywhere near his career-high .355 wOBA from 2008 (which seems highly unlikely after a .292 mark in 2009 and .313 this past season for the Twins), or don't want to throw up at the site of Juan Uribe's .300 career OBP, there isn't anything particularly compelling.
And forget about the trade market -- the aforementioned top four shortstops in the NL aren't going anywhere, and even if their teams were to listen to a potential offer it wouldn't even be worth discussing because the player cost would be stratospheric.
So we're stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Yankees need Derek Jeter, but Derek Jeter also needs the Yankees. There's been discussion about Derek moving off shortstop, but that makes even less sense than signing him to a $20M a year deal -- if his bat can barely carry shortstop, the weakest-hitting position on the diamond, what makes anyone think he'll be a positive asset at third base, the outfield or designated hitter? I still expect the team to sign him to something like a four-year, $80 million deal, but would be very pleasantly surprised if they could knock it down to three years, and even giddier if they were able to agree to $15M a year.
Derek knows he's worth more to the Yankees than any other team, but can he really believe he's still a $15-$20 million/year player? If he wants at least one more ring before hanging those spikes up, he needs to do the selfless thing and not hamstring the Yankee payroll, so that they can bring in whatever additional pieces they may need. That means signing a contract for what you're actually worth and being willing to move down in the lineup for the greater good of the team, and if Derek is able to come close to doing either or both of those things, he'll regain a lot of the respect I've lost for him during the past season.
For more on the Jeter situation, be sure to also check out Steve's and Jay's fine work at the Pinstriped Bible as well as NoMaas's take.