It’s time people got real about what Derek Jeter means to “The Yankee Brand”


I promise: I’ll stop writing about Derek Jeter when something else happens. But since there ain’t nothin’ else happening, more Jeter it is.  This time a fisking of Ken Rosenthal’s latest. He thinks the Yankees are treating Derek Jeter poorly and harming “The Yankee Brand.”  I think this is a bit silly.

Just answer me this: Why are the Yankees taking such a harsh stance, devaluing their franchise player and effectively damaging their own brand?

The harsh stance? Because they can. And it’s worth noting that when they failed to take harsh market-based stances against other free agents they were excoriated for skewing the salary structure of Major League Baseball.

But let’s be clear about something: the $45 million offer on the table — which may actually increase — does not “devalue” Jeter. It overvalues him. The Yankees are being generous with that offer, because it’s at least half again more than what any other team would offer him.  And even if it was a “devaluing” deal, the devaluation is attributable to time and the degradation of Jeter’s skills, not anything the Yankees have done in the past week of negotiations.

And the brand?  Please. To suggest that their somewhat sharp dealings with Jeter will harm the Yankee brand is to misunderstand the nature of the Yankee brand. Babe Ruth was left to dangle at the end of his career. Reggie Jackson wasn’t even given an offer to come back when his deal was up. Bernie Williams was given the cold shoulder. Even if Derek Jeter was forced into signing with the Nippon Ham Fighters the “Yankee Brand” would carry on just fine.

Is Jeter asking for that large a contract?

Yes. Yes he is. And I’ve yet to see anyone, even the most adamant Jeter backers, make an actual case for him to make more than $15 million a year for the next three years. Chase Utley makes that and he’s better than Jeter. It’s more than Hanley Ramirez makes.  Unless the argument is that people fill up Yankee Stadium specifically to see Derek Jeter and not the New York Yankees, I can’t see any “intangibles” case that justifies $15 million a year, let alone more.

Do all those empty premium seats at the new Yankee Stadium have club officials spooked?

The Yankees are a sophisticated business that prices their seats based on what the market will bear. If the empty seats spook them, they’ll adjust prices, like they just did. They also probably realize that the single biggest factor in attendance is wins and losses, and it’s a lot harder to win with a massively overpaid 37 year-old shortstop on the decline as opposed to a merely moderately-overpaid 37 year-old shortstop. Don Mattingly was on the team in the late 80s and early 90s. Everyone frickin’ loved Don Mattingly. Don Mattingly didn’t bring anyone to the ballpark on his own.

Are the Yankees trying to send a message to their other free agents, Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte?

They’ve been sending Andy Pettitte messages for years. Remember that $5.5 million deal he signed before the 2009 season? This is not unprecedented.

What is it?

I don’t think it’s anything other than a negotiation between a baseball team and a player. To the extent anyone is reading larger narratives into it or is finding injustice here it’s because they believe Derek Jeter to be different in kind than other players. He’s not. He’s a shortstop. A Hall of Fame shortstop to be sure, but he’s still just a shortstop. If he played in any other city he’d be pilloried for asking for the kind of money for which he’s asking.

Eventually, all of the rancor will diminish and the two sides will reach agreement, probably on a three- or four- year deal worth $18 million to $20 million per season. But Jeter might not easily forgive.

If the Yankees give Jeter between $18-20 million a year by the time this is all said and done Derek Jeter should not be in the business of forgiving. He should be in the business of kissing Brian Cashman full on the lips and thanking him for his outrageous generosity.

The Yankees have overpaid for countless other players, virtually all of them inferior to Jeter. Rarely do they draw the line in contract negotiations, as they soon will demonstrate again in their all-out bid for Cliff Lee. Now they’re going to start? With Jeter, of all players?

This is the line of reasoning that has driven me the craziest over the past few days. For one thing, it’s counter-factual, and you need only look at that Pettitte deal and many other deals out there.  The Yankees overpaid Alex Rodriguez. They ended up overpaying for a few others based on the performance they got in return, but gave them market or slightly-above-market deals at the time. The list of players the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants have overpaid is way, way longer than the list of players the New York Yankees have overpaid.  The Yankees have signed expensive players. They have not, however, comically overpaid nearly as many players as people pretend they have.

But let’s say they actually are the worst overpayers in the history of baseball. Why must they continue to be? Why should dumb financial decisions in the past require that they continue to make dumb financial decisions now?  The Yankees have been signaling for some time that the Alex Rodriguez deal was a mistake. If Casey Close told Jeter “don’t worry — they’re going to overpay you too,” he has seriously misread the tea leaves. Both common sense and history have made it clear the the Yankees aren’t as crazy as they used to be. George is dead. Hank is Fredo. Hal and Brian Cashman are running the show, and they are doing exactly what they should be doing. And it has worked.

Though the numbers might suggest otherwise, Jeter does not see himself as Marco Scutaro. Nor should he. Not after helping the Yankees enhance their brand to the point where they could start their own regional TV network, build a new stadium and yes, generate enough revenue to buy players such as — ahem — Alex Rodriguez.

The quality of the Yankees teams between 1996-2010 have built that brand. Those championships have built that brand. Derek Jeter did not, in and of himself, build that brand. He had help, every single year, in making the Yankees what they are. He has been handsomely compensated for his contributions, but make no mistake: if it was just him and a bunch of scrubeenies, there would be no YES Network or Yankee Brand.

Yes, Jeter is 36. Yes, his decline only figures to accelerate. Yes, the question of how long he will remain at shortstop is a real issue. But his on-field performance next season is almost certain to include his 3,000th hit. Jeter is 74 hits shy of the milestone. And let’s just say the Yankees are going to make a little extra coin when he gets there.

Tell you what: let’s take the average historical attendance and TV ratings for whatever date it is Jeter hits #3,000, subtract it from the actual ratings and attendance on that day, and write a check to Jeter for the balance. If he is so incentivized, Will a $15 million deal then be sufficient?

Look, I don’t mean to pick on Rosenthal here. He’s not saying anything that a lot of other columnists aren’t saying.  I just think everyone is having a real perspective problem with this Derek Jeter business.  Rosenthal compares Jeter to Ruth, DiMaggio and Mantle. The Yankees marched on without Ruth and DiMaggio, actually improving in both quality and marquee value after each of them left, depending on how you measure such things. They faltered terribly in both regards, however, when a declining Mantle was  surrounded by a poor cast and ownership started to make poor business decisions.

It’s not the player. It’s the team. The Yankees are being more than fair with Jeter. They don’t want to lose him obviously, but they would do just fine without him. To not acknowledge that is to ignore the history of the team and the reality of Jeter’s contributions.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.

Report: Johnny Cueto is believed to be looking for a $140-160 million deal

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It was reported Sunday that free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto had turned down a six-year, $120 million contract from the Diamondbacks. He’s hoping to land a bigger deal this winter and ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick has heard some chatter about what he’s looking for.

Jordan Zimmermann finalized a five-year, $110 million contract with the Tigers today, which works out to $22 million per season. Arizona’s offer to Cueto checked in at $20 million per season. A six-year offer to Cueto at the same AAV (average annual value) as Zimmermann would put him at $132 million, which is still a little shy of the figure stated by Crasnick. Of course, Cueto owns a 2.71 ERA (145 ERA+) over the last five seasons compared to a 3.14 ERA (123 ERA+) by Zimmermann during that same timespan, so there’s a case to be made that he should get more. Still, he’s the clear No. 3 starter on the market behind David Price and Zack Greinke.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Cubs are among the other teams who have interest in Cueto. One variable in his favor is that he is not attached to draft pick compensation, as he was traded from the Reds to the Royals during the 2015 season.

Report: Around 20 teams have contacted the Braves about Shelby Miller

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The rebuilding Braves have already been active on the trade market and they might not be done, as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports that right-hander Shelby Miller has been a very popular name. In fact, around 20 teams have checked in.

Nothing is considered close and the Braves have set a very high asking price, mostly centered around offense. They asked for right-hander Luis Severino in talks with the Yankees and would expect outfielder Marcell Ozuna among other pieces from the Marlins. The Diamondbacks and Giants are among the other interested clubs.

Miller is under team control through 2018, so there’s not necessarily a sense of urgency to move him, but anything is possible with the way the Braves are doing things right now. The 25-year-old is coming off a year where he went 6-17, but that was about really rotten luck more than anything else, as he had a fine 3.02 ERA and 171/73 K/BB ratio over 205 1/3 innings. The Braves gave him the worst run support of any starter in the majors.

Mets expected to tender a contract to Jenrry Mejia

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 12:  Jenrry Mejia #58 of the New York Mets reacts as he walks off the field after getting the final out of the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Citi Field on July 12, 2015 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Jenrry Mejia appeared in just seven games this past season due to a pair of suspensions for performance-enhancing drugs, but Adam Rubin of ESPN New York reports that the Mets are expected to tender him a contract for 2016.

While the Mets were vocal about their disappointment in Mejia’s actions, it makes sense to keep him around as an option. Had he played a full season in 2015, he would have earned $2.595 million. He’s arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter and figures to receive a contract similar to his 2015 figure, but he’ll only be paid for the games he plays. He still has 100 games to serve on his second PED suspension, which means that he’ll only be paid for 62 games in 2016. This likely puts his salary closer to $1 million, which is a small price to pay for someone who could prove useful during the second half and beyond. He also won’t count toward the team’s 40-man roster until he’s active.

Mejia, who turned 26 in October, owns a 3.68 ERA in the majors and saved 28 games for the Mets in 2014. He’s currently pitching as a starter in the Dominican Winter League.