Derek Jeter’s struggles have gone on for a few months now, but for whatever reason, this seemed to be the week to write and talk about them.
Anthony McCarron wrote about Jeter’s long-term future: The slender, handsome Yankee icon who once seemed forever young, is now a seemingly-aging 36-year-old shortstop in the last year of his contract who has just four hits in his last 40 at-bats and is batting only .266, 48 points below his career mark of .314. Is it simply a slump, an off-year or the start of the inevitable twilight of his career? Questions swirl about his production, his contract and whether he may have to change positions at some point during his career.
Jon Heyman wrote about Jeter’s pending free agency: The Yankees won’t hand Jeter a blank check, but there’s no chance the historic franchise is about to nickel and dime an icon, either. The Yankees are the one team that can afford to pay iconic players for their past greatness. They are also the one team that doesn’t view all of its players though only a current business prism, and that’s because the Yankees’ business is so good it doesn’t have to look at things the normal way.
Dave Cameron at FanGraphs wrote about Jeter’s numbers: Jeter’s BABIP is the lowest of his career, and by a large margin. Before this year, he’d never posted a mark below .315, and he has more seasons with a BABIP over .350 than under that mark. While BABIP is a high-variance statistic, even for hitters, Jeter has a well-established skill at producing above the league average. That just hasn’t translated onto the field this year. Odds are pretty good that Jeter’s going to hit better next year than he has this year. He’s probably not done as a good major league player.
Ken Rosenthal wrote about Jeter’s offseason value: …if Jeter took say, a three-year, $36 million deal, the Yankees could make it up to him by giving him a massive bonus for 3,000 hits and a lucrative post-career personal-services contract. Would $10 million a year for 30 years be excessive for this generation’s Joe DiMaggio? Perhaps, but by that point, Jeter would not count against the team’s luxury tax. In essence, he would be deferring money so that the Yankees could better compete while he was still active.
The topic is not going to go away between now and November. Even if Jeter surges through these final three weeks, he’s likely to finish with his worst offensive season. He’s not going to get any younger, and the Yankees aren’t going to sign him before the end of the season. Every topic discussed this week will be discussed again in two months. For now, I’ll throw in my two cents.
1. Jeter’s contract: Yes, he’s probably going to be paid more than his numbers suggest he’s worth, but he’s also worth more than his numbers. Also, let’s not blow it out of proportion. Jeter was third in MVP voting last year. Not last decade, last year. Even in a normal free agent situation, it’s not like he’d have to settle for a minor league deal. There’s still real value there.
2. Jeter’s position: Will Jeter eventually move away from shortstop? Maybe. But right now, the Yankees don’t have a better option. They have a pretty good outfield. The rest of the infield is locked up. Putting Jeter at designated hitter would mean trusting Ramiro Pena or Eduardo Nunez as an everyday player. Jeter’s their best option at shortstop right now, and he probably will be for at least the next year or two.
3. Jeter’s numbers: As FanGraphs pointed out, some of Jeter’s decline has been bad luck, some of it has been an overwhelming tendency to hit the ball on the ground and not turn those ground balls into hits. Amazing thing is, not only was Jeter a great hitter just last year, he was still an awfully good hitter just three months ago. On June 9 he had a slash line of .297/.347/.426. Those aren’t his career numbers, but they’re not bad from the shortstop position.
4. Jeter’s impact: His range doesn’t seem to be what it was just last season, but there is something to be said for the fact Jeter is as reliable as they come in the field. If he can make the play, he makes it. Also, Jeter’s on-base and slugging percentages are way down, but there’s a solid chance he’s going to score more runs and drive in more runs than he did last year. Clearly he’s not the same offensive player, but in terms of raw production, he’s been just as good.