Dropping Jeter

Joel Sherman wrote in today’s Post that the Yankees should bat Jeter 8th or 9th in the lineup. He is absolutely correct, but as we all know it isn’t going to happen- this year.

The bigger Jeter question is what happens next year? I have seen many writers guess that Jeter will get a four-year/$25 million extension. To me, that is pure insanity and completely ignores the reality of the way Brian Cashman operates.

Cashman has shown time and again that he will not bend to sentimentality. He shipped off two fan favorites this past offseason in Damon and Matsui and don’t forget the whole Bernie Williams situation. If you are going to rank Yankees of the current era, I think you would have to put Bernie #3 behind Jeter and Rivera in terms of their meaning to the team. Yet when Williams’ big deal ended, his salary was cut by $10 million and he was given a one-year deal.

I don’t think the Yankees will be that drastic with Jeter. They want him back and the fact is they really don’t have anyone else right now to play short. (Eduardo Nunez hit .289/.340/.381 in Scranton this year- even diminished Jeter is better than that.) There is also the little matter of 3,000 hits and the Yankees will surely want to see Jeter to do that as a member of the pinstripes.

Depending on how he finishes this year, Jeter will be about 80 hits short of 3,000 when the season ends. Unless Nunez kicks it up several notches, the Yankees really don’t have anyone who profiles as a possible replacement for Jeter anywhere close to the majors. Creativity could be used in the trade market, but let’s assume that the Yankees need Jeter for at least 2011 and possibly 2012. To me the sensible approach is to offer arbitration and hope he takes it. Assuming he doesn’t, the solution would be more money and fewer years. How about starting with a one-year deal with an option for a second, triggered by a certain number of hits in 2011? You could pay him $22 million per season, way more than he is worth and a raise from his present deal, but also a measure of the respect the organization has for him. Included in this offer will be the understanding that he is moving down in the lineup. Down to where to be determined in spring training.

I don’t think Jeter would find anything like that deal on the free agent market. How many teams are going to be interested in paying a 36-year old shortstop any kind of money after a season like the one he is having? The Yankees really have the leverage here, but I think they will be smart enough not to alienate Jeter. These will be quiet conversations and I don’t think we will hear very much about the negotiations until they are completed.