Derek Jeter's contract negotiations have gone public. If you somehow haven't heard, the Yankees initial offer for their shortstop was a three-year, $45 million that Jeter's longtime agent Casey Close laughed at.
Close's argument was easy to anticipate. Jeter's an icon, he's an essential Yankee or, perhaps better stated, he is the Yankees.
The reason why we've reached this state is the Yankees are looking at Jeter's worth as a function of what the market says he's worth. Close, on the other hand, is doing his job to ask for what Jeter might bring into the Yankees.
They are two totally different ways of looking at his value.
Close wants the Yankees to reward Jeter for the icon he has become. The Yankees merely want to have Jeter on their team.
So who wins this battle?
It's hard to see how the Yankees lose.
The bottom line is that Jeter is worth more to the Yankees than he is to any other team. Especially coming off this season, the comparables show he's worth around $10 million a year. Save for the Mets making a desperate marketing move, it's hard to see any team matching the Yankees first offer.
And if Jeter does manage to get a total package higher than what the Yankees offer — know that that first offer isn’t their final offer — the team knows that he wouldn’t be dumb enough to go. Why? Because, depending on the market, Jeter losing the lifelong Yankee label could cost him so much in marketing dollars that he’d actually be losing money anyway.
For years, the Yankees have overpaid for guys they probably could have gotten for cheaper. They know this. Alex Rodriguez is performing well and he's still overpaid. Just because the Yankees have overpaid in the past doesn’t mean Jeter deserves to get a silly contract. Just because their father disregarded the numbers on many contracts doesn’t mean the new age Steinbrenners should or will.
Jeter has benefited in the past from being compared to the game’s best. His contracts have reflected that, both in arbitration and his latest 10-year, $189 million deal that just expired. He was compared to what other shortstops were making. He was compared to what A-Rod was making. But now that the comparables don’t benefit him, all of a sudden, his agent is taking the tack that he can’t be compared to anyone. Well, maybe Babe Ruth, that is.
As for the idea that Jeter is owed “respect money?” Come on. Jeter was paid healthily and lived up to his contract. The Yankees don’t owe him for the past years of service.
What shocks so many people is that the Yankees are actually being fiscally responsible here. They are offering Jeter a number where they can still make money off him. Maybe. Remember, it’s pretty hard to prove that people show up at Yankees games because of Derek Jeter. Does it add to the fun of going to the stadium? Sure. He’s the last guy announced by Bob Sheppard. But data clearly shows that if the Yankees win people show up at the park and watch games on YES. Good luck trying to break that down to Jeter.
That’s why Derek Jeter needs the Yankees more than the team needs him.
In a way, the Yankees first offer is pretty close to the perfect amount. It's an initial offer that clears the "insulting" barrier. Turns out the offer is exactly what the Phillies agreed to pay Chase Utley and Jeter has years on him.
It’s Casey Close’s job to act offended at the offer that the Yankees threw at Jeter. But this will all end quickly when Close can't present Jeter with a total financial package that is even in the range of what the Yankees have for him.
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