Derek Jeter: “I still have a season to play”

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Derek Jeter met the press today. As he said in his Facebook post last week, 2014 will be his last season. But this wasn’t a ceremony or a retirement press conference as such. The team and Jeter referred to it as Jeter’s “media availability” which he does every spring, and Jeter did everything he could to make it seem like no big deal. Just the usual February meet-and-greet.

And while most of the conversation was about his retirement, it wasn’t like most retirement announcements we normally see. Jeter had no prepared statement. He said he said everything in the Facebook message last week. The reason? He didn’t want to be a distraction and didn’t want his teammates to have to show up for a formal announcement ceremony. He just asked for it to be a normal. “I still have a season to play,” Jeter said.

Jeter’s second question was about how he felt. He said “I feel good. This has absolutely nothing to do with how I feel physically. I feel great.” He said, over and over, that “the time is right” and that he just wanted to do different things with his life. He mentioned wanting to have a family some day. When pressed for reasons for his retirement he half-jokingly, but somewhat seriously, asked the reporters if they didn’t really read his Facebook announcement. Because that was it. Everything he had to say about it was in there.

Still, the questions came. And to some degree Jeter did open up. He said that a lot of his career had become a job in the past year. Not the playing — he said he still likes coming to the ballpark and playing — but meeting with the media. Answering the increasing questions about how long he can go on. He also referred to the rehab from injuries like he endured last year. And though he didn’t say so, it’s not hard to read in the notion that Jeter would expect to have more rehab as he gets older and that he wouldn’t much care for that.

A couple of reporters asked Jeter if he was emotional about it. He sparred with them — “what, are you trying to get me to cry?” he joked. And there were no tears. Jeter referenced the fact that he has always hidden his emotions to some extent, but yes, he has them. He’s not going to be emotional about it now, however, as he still has a season in front of him. “It’s not the end yet,” Jeter said.

But there were a few words that even the stoic Jeter must admit were more reflective of the end of his career. He was asked about being drafted in 1992 and how time has flown. He said if he had a message for younger players it would be to “enjoy it as much as you can,” and implied that he didn’t always do that himself, though such an approach “has always worked for me.”

2014 will be Jeter’s 20th season as a major leaguer. As he enters it, he has a career line of .312/.381/.446 with 3,316 hit, 256 homers and 1,261 runs batted in. He has five gold gloves and five World Series rings.

Mike Trout says Harper and Machado’s free agency experience sent up “red flags”

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Mike Trout signed a record-setting contract extension last week, agreeing to ten more years tacked on to his existing deal at $35.45 million a year. It’s certainly nothing to sneeze at and, I’m quite sure, Trout will not lose any sleep over financial matters for the rest of his days.

One wonders, though, what he might’ve commanded had he hit free agency. If he had been bid on by more than one team. Sure, there is some upward limit to how much even a guy of Trout’s caliber might get, but you have to assume that if a couple more teams were able to get in on that action that that $35.45 million a year could’ve been topped.

Did he give any thoughts to testing the market? Maybe not serious ones, but he certainly observed the market this past winter and didn’t much care for what he saw. He said this to Fabiran Ardaya of The Athletic last night:

“I kind of saw what Bryce and Manny went through and it drew a red flag for me. I talked to Manny and Bryce. It was a tough couple months in the offseason. They put it perspective in my mind.”

He added, “I obviously want to be an Angel for life. That was a big key,” so it’s not like this was purely some matter of Trout being scared off the market. But it’s also the case that the market has become fraught for even the best players in the game and has influenced their decision making to a considerable degree. Part of Mike Trout’s decision to sign that deal was how unwelcoming the free agent market looked like it’d be even for him.

And it’s not just Trout. To see how unpalatable free agency has become one need merely look at the bevy of contract extensions agreed to over the past week or two. Each one of those, however lucrative they may be, represent a player foregoing the open market in favor of negotiating with a single bidder with greater leverage as a result. While some of those choices, like Trout’s, do not cost the players much more than, perhaps, some rounding error on his ultimate contract, others, like pre-arbitration players, are likely foregoing tens of millions of dollars in order to make a deal now instead of a few years later. And, of course, each team that signs a player to an extension is less likely to be active in an upcoming free agency period, reducing the number of bidders and thus applying downward pressure on salaries for those players who do hit the open market.

For the first century or so of baseball history the Reserve Clause ruled baseball economics. Under that system, a team which possessed the rights to a player could not be deprived of that player’s services if it did not want to be. When it came time to decide what to pay a player only one team could bid, giving it all the leverage. Then free agency came. Owners fought like hell against its implementation. They lost that battle and then attempted to roll it back as much as they could, even employing illegal tactics at times in an effort to do so, but they didn’t have much luck.

In the past two or three years, however, they have done what decades of efforts could not do: they have effectively taken away a full and open free market for players and have returned the game to a state in which the team which holds a players’ rights is, effectively, the only bidder for his services and has the power to retain him on favorable terms.

It’s not the restoration of the old reserve clause, exactly, but when the best player in baseball since Willie Mays is wary of the open market, you have to admit that it’s far, far closer to it than anyone thought the owners would ever get.