There has been a lot of speculation about what Derek Jeter’s next contract will look like once the Yankees re-sign their free agent shortstop this winter.Bob Klapisch suggested $25 million per year for four years. Yankeeist.com says Jeter will demand a contract similar to Alex Rodriguez and will end up with $20 million per year for four or five years. Jon Heyman thinks Jeter could seek a six-year deal that would keep him a Yankee until he is 42 (same as A-Rod’s deal).
While nobody is sure how much it will cost, everybody agrees that the Yankees are going to pay more than Jeter is worth (on the field). But how much more? What if the Yankees decided they did not want Jeter back because he is going to be a 37-year old middle infielder with poor fielding skills and eroding offensive stats?
In other words, how much would Jeter make as a free agent if the Yankees weren’t around to drive up the price?
Let’s see if we can find some comparable players that signed new contracts in the last few years. Here is the list I came up with and their numbers for the 2-3 years prior to hitting free agency. Feel free to add some names in the comments section…
Over the last three years, Jeter has averaged a .301 AVG, 13 HR, .783 OPS and 4.4 WAR. The players with similar stats over a 2-3 year period were Johnny Damon and Bobby Abreu. While Jeter had a higher batting average, WAR* and plays a premium position (albeit poorly), Damon and Abreu were both younger when they signed their new deals and bested Jeter in home runs, stolen bases and OPS.
Last winter, Damon signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Tigers. Two years ago, Abreu signed with the Angels for two years at $9 million per season with an option for a third year at $9 million.
So a reasonable guess of Jeter’s value on the open market would be two years and $8-10 million per season. That is a total value of $16-20 million. That could go to $30 million if the team were to add an option year to the deal.
Based on the speculation at the beginning of this post, the Yankees could go as high as $120 million for six years. If they did that, they will be giving Jeter nearly $100 million more than his (baseball) skill set is worth.
The Yankees have a long history of overpaying players. But Jeter’s next contract will raise the bar to a new level.
*Jeter’s WAR is most likely inflated due to his uncharacteristically strong defensive play in 2009. There is little reason to believe that Jeter will ever be able to duplicate his 2009 defensive numbers.
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