Jeter's next deal won't be about the money

Reuters talked to a couple of sabermetrically inclined analysts about the sort of money that Derek Jeter's likely to make with his next contract:

    Jeter could increase his value with an exceptional performance in the remainder of the playoffs, especially if the Yankees win an unprecedented 28th World Series.

    "Jeter is more valuable in New York than anywhere else. Jeter and the Yankees go together. The Yankees make more money because Jeter is on their team. Jeter is more likable to fans because he's on the Yankees. So they have a strong incentive to work this out," J.C. Bradbury, whose new book "Hot Stove Economics" attempts to determine how much players are worth, told Reuters.

    "Jeter has made over $200 million in his career, so a lot of this is about saving face. He doesn't want the Yankees to slap him in the face with an offer that he perceives to be unfair. He'll just go elsewhere," Bradbury said.

    Bradbury said a nameless player of Jeter's age and statistics would be worth $9 million to $10 per year on the open market, but figured Jeter should easily sign for $12 million to $15 million per season.

    Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus, a website specializing in advanced metrics for the sport, put the value of a Jeter-like player at $15 million to $16 million for two years -- or possibly $30 million for three years based on his intrinsic value -- but guesses he will sign for something like $64 million for four years.

    The Yankees have the money. Forbes magazine estimates the club is worth $1.6 billion, with the Yankees brand alone accounting for $328 million of that.

This conversation is always about money. Is there any way to justify continuing to pay Jeter $20 million per season? (No.) Will Jeter's pride allow him to take a significant pay cut? (Unknown.) Can the Yankees afford to give Jeter whatever his pinstriped heart desires? (Of course.)

But in a sense the money's irrelevant. The Yankees will make huge profits for as many years in the future as we're able to imagine. That doesn't mean they don't have a budget (they do) or that they won't hold the line at some point with Jeter's next deal (they will). But the Yankees' bankroll means that nobody is going to offer Jeter more than they will.

The conversation should not be about money. It should not be about money when we're having it. It should not be about money when the Yankees' people are talking to Derek Jeter's people.

The conversation should be about Jeter's role during the life of his next contract.

It's easy to say the money's irrelevant and you can't put a price on what Derek Jeter means to the Yankees and he should be a Yankee forever and yada yada yada. All true, perhaps.

But the Red Sox aren't going away. The Rays probably aren't going away (soon, anyhow). The Jays are respectable and the Orioles are getting out of the patsy business. The Yankees can afford to pay their players anything. It's not clear that they can afford to lose games they might otherwise win. And if they commit the organization to playing Derek Jeter at shortstop for 150 games in 2012 and 2013, that's exactly what they'll be doing: losing games they don't have to.

If you're trying to construct a scenario in which Derek Jeter is not a Yankee in 2011 (and beyond), this is how you do it. You imagine a conversation in which someone who works for the New York Yankees suggests to someone who works for Derek Jeter that his role might be somewhat different than it's been. That in the last year or two of the contract, he might not be the every-day shortstop; might instead play in 120 games as a sort of super-utility player. That the money will still be excellent, but the time on the field won't be.

Jeter probably accedes to this suggestion, because that's just the sort of fellow that he is. Or perhaps the Yankees put this conversation off for a year or two, figuring things will work themselves out. However it happens, you have to figure Jeter's a Yankee next year and forever.

But it's not as simple as just throwing $60 million at the guy. At some point, somebody's got to tell him he can't keep his favorite job forever.