Thursday, November 25, 2010

Jeter: A Risk/Reward Compromise

Let’s be adults, people.

No one wants to see Derek Jeter wearing anything but pinstripes, so it’s in everyone’s best interests to compromise (you remember compromise—it used to be part of the art of politics, but that’s a digression for another day. Today’s entry, after all, is a sports-themed blog).

The Yankee captain and the team hierarchy are reportedly tens of millions of dollars apart on their proposals for a new multi-year contract, with the latter said to be suggesting Jeter’s worth to the team is $15 million a year for the next three years. Apparently, Hal and Hank Steinbrenner and GM Brian Cashman believe Jeter’s 2010 performance is what can be expected from an aging (he’ll turn 37 next June) shortstop. Last season was Derek’s worse as a full-time player. He hit a mere .270, 64 points below his 2009 average and 44 points below his 16-season average. I won’t bore you with other vital statistics (here’s a link you can check out on your own:

The point is, the Yankees must feel Jeter cannot be expected to rebound and that their $45 million offer already recognizes the other intangibles he brings to the team, on and off the field. Therefore, any improvement would be a bonus for the Yankees. As such, the Yankees should be receptive to a contract that provides incentives based on results that exceed 2010 levels.

Jeter is admired as a fierce competitor. It’s time for him to accept the challenge. He needs to accept a pay-for-better-play bonus program.

Each year of the contract, assuming he plays a minimum of 150 games per season,
* If he bats .300, he would get another $1 million (if he exceeds his 16-year average of .314, he gets another $500,000);
* If he scores more than 111 runs, another $1 million;
* If he gets more than 179 hits, another $1 million (add another $500,000 if he exceeds 200 hits);
* If he exceeds an on base percentage of .340, another $1 million;
* If he exceeds a slugging percentage of .370, another $1 million;
* If he exceeds an on base plus slugging percentage of .710, another $1 million.

If Jeter rebounds, he could earn as much as $7 million more on his proposed base salary. That would bring him nearly up to his 2010 salary of $22.6 million, not bad for an “aging” ballplayer.

The suggestion by the Yankees that Jeter should test his worth on the open market is petty, demeaning and runs counter to history, at least as far as recent New York teams go. After the NY Rangers let Mark Messier go, after the NY Knicks severed their relationship with Patrick Ewing, both teams went into multi-year tailspins. The Yanks failed to make the playoffs the year after Joe Torre’s contract as manager was not renewed.

No person is irreplaceable on any team. But Jeter is as iconic a Yankee as anyone has ever been. Both the Yankees and Jeter need to man up and agree on a contract with risks and rewards both sides can accept. For the good of the team.