When the Yankees reportedly offered Derek Jeter a three-year, $45 million contract earlier this offseason, most deemed the deal to be fair.
Sure, the Yanks would be overpaying to retain the face of their franchise. And sure, Jeter might not be thrilled with the length of the deal. But such compromises seemed to be reasonable, and a happy ending appeared to be in sight.
Unfortunately for fans of common sense, Jeter was reported to want twice as many years and three times as much money as the Yankees were willing to offer, spawning one of the most awkward and unnecessary contract negotiations in recent years. Jeter’s agent called the offer “baffling,” and the Yankees politely told him to test the market.
So what would the market for Derek Jeter look like? It’s pretty good — if you’re the Yankees. The truth of the matter is that few teams are in need of a shortstop who can’t play shortstop, and even fewer would be willing to pay him anywhere close to $15 million per season. Jeter’s offense and leadership would be coveted, but unless he were willing to change positions and lower his demands, few teams are likely to be enticed the overall body of work that Jeter can bring to the table.
If Jeter were to try his luck in the National League, he’d be disappointed by his potential suitors.
The NL East has three of the game’s best shortstops in Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, and features the Nationals’ up-and-coming tandem of Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa as well. Jeter would provide an offensive upgrade over the Braves’ Alex Gonzalez, but the Braves are already dealing with one declining superstar in Chipper Jones.
Jeter may find some opportunities in the NL Central with the Cardinals or Reds, but would need to take a much lower salary than the $15 million per season offered to him by the Yankees. The Pirates and Astros are options here as well, but it’s unlikely that Jeter wants to spend his waning years on losing clubs, and the Cubs and Brewers are set with Starlin Castro and Alcides Escobar, respectively.
What about the NL West? Troy Tulowitzki, Rafael Furcal and Stephen Drew eliminate the Rockies, Dodgers, and D-Backs from the equation, leaving the Padres and Giants as “DJ’s” only options. There are worse fates than to play out one’s career in Southern California, but the Padres only pay pennies, and an infield including Jeter, Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huff would be a defensive disaster for the reigning World Series champs.
Unfortunately for Jeter and agent Casey Close, the aging shortstop won’t find that much more interest in the AL either.
In the AL West, the Angels, Rangers and Athletics all have talented, cheap young shortstops, and the Mariners have a significant amount of payroll tied up in defensive wiz Jack Wilson. He might get some interest from this division if he were willing to move to third base or DH, but the teams here have superior options at short.
The AL Central is much the same. Asdrubal Cabrera and Alexei Ramriez take the Indians and White Sox out of the equation, and the Twins and Indians have recently renewed their contracts with JJ Hardy and Jhonny Peralta, respectively. The Royals could sure use a shortstop, but continue to support the defensive train wreck that is Yuniesky Betancourt, and Jeter wanting to go to Kansas City is unlikely, anyway.
Unfortunately for Yankee fans, the division in which Jeter is likely to garner the most attention is the AL East. The Blue Jays are set at shortstop with Yunel Escobar, but the division’s other three teams may have some interest. The Rays are known to have been shopping Jason Bartlett as of late, and are in need of offense. The Red Sox are unlikely candidates, but Jeter would be an offensive improvement over Marco Scutaro. And the Orioles are completely devoid of any internal shortstop candidates, and could use some veteran leadership.
Derek Jeter in orange? Yankee haters would love to see that.
The bottom line is that Jeter is overplaying his hand, and even a brief examination of the potential market he would face as a real free agent makes that obvious. Jeter can solve all this by going back to the Yankees, accepting their generous offer, and retiring as one of the greatest players in the history of their franchise.
When you consider his alternatives, it’s not a hard choice to make.
Is Derek Jeter overplaying his hand? Should other teams want to sign him? Share your thoughts below.