One more thing that has to happen in the next few days: Derek Jeter has to make a decision regarding the player option in his contract.If he turns it down, he’ll become a free agent. If he accepts, he will be back with the Yankees at $9.5 million for next season.
General expectation seems to be that Jeter will exercise the option and return for another season. He’s 39 years old, coming off a year lost to injury, when he hit only .190 in the few games he managed to play. It’s hardly a good time for Jeter to go testing the market, and a guaranteed contract — even at a significant pay cut — seems like a strong opportunity for Jeter to stay with the Yankees and prove himself, one way or the other. If he comes back and plays well at age 40, then Jeter and the Yankees will have an interesting decision to make next winter. But that’s a discussion for another day.
For now, the interesting scenario is what happens if Jeter turns down the player option?
Six years ago, Brian Cashman walked away from Bernie Williams. Keep in mind that, at the time, Williams was younger than Jeter is today, and that Williams was coming off a season when he hit .281/.332/.436 in 131 games. Williams’ star had clearly faded, but he was still a wildly popular and moderately useful player. However, it made business and baseball sense to walk away, and the Yankees did exactly that.
Now, Jeter is a different animal. More than a wildly popular player, he’s a legitimate icon who finished Top 10 in MVP voting just two years ago. His situation might not be unique, but it’s awfully close. Hard to find a perfect comparison for something like this. I bring up Williams only to ask this:
If Jeter turns down his player option, would it make business and baseball sense for the Yankees to walk away? Would they be willing to do so, making the perfectly valid argument that Jeter had the opportunity to return and chose not to?
At this point, I fully expect Jeter to exercise the option and come back to the Yankees next season. But if he turns it down, this winter of uncertainty will enter truly uncharted territory.
Associated Press photo