Could Derek Jeter actually leave the New York Yankees for the New York Mets?
Jeter leaving the Yankees seemed completely inconceivable even a few days ago. While the scenario is still not likely, it is beginning to look at least plausible.
The Yankees are on record as having offered Jeter a three year contract for a total of $45 million; an offer that Jeter’s agent Casey Close called “baffling” over the weekend.
In return, Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said today, “We understand his contributions to the franchise and our offer has taken them into account. We’ve encouraged him to test the market and see if there’s something he would prefer other than this. If he can, fine. That’s the way it works.”
The Yankees seem intent to pay Jeter solely on his projected performance on the baseball field and on his marketability to other teams. It is clear that Jeter is worth more to the Yankees than any other franchise due to a whole host of factors. He is a homegrown shortstop who was the face of five World Series championships. He stayed completely clean during the steroid era. He never had a serious misstep off the field, even while dating a seemingly endless line of famous models, singers and actresses. In many ways, Jeter has been the definition of a post race era America, as he is both white and African American and beloved and respected by all segments of society.
Now 36, Jeter is coming off of his worst year ever, hitting .270 with ten home runs. He had, by his standards, a horrible season. By everybody else’s standards, he was just average, neither particularly bad nor particularly good.
But Derek Jeter’s value to the Yankees goes far beyond strict production on the field. He remains the face of the franchise and, probably, all of baseball. He figured to be in the Yankee family forever.
While the odds are still long that Jeter will end up in another uniform, there is a possibility now.
The Yankees are counting on Jeter not having much leverage in the free agent marketplace. And, in truth, he doesn’t. While many teams would be improved with Jeter at short, they wouldn’t be so much improved that they would top the Yankees offer of $45 million over three years.
That said, Cashman’s statement today has devalued Jeter and his association with the Yankees. Perhaps it has only temporarily, time will tell on that, but it has unmistakably. Can Jeter come back, accept the Yankees offer and acknowledge that they were right and that he deserves to be treated as any other player?
Does Jeter have any other options? The truth is, probably not many. But there is one team that might make sense.
First, it seems that only a handful of cities would be attractive to Jeter. New York and Los Angeles, and possibly Chicago would be cities with a platform big enough to be attractive to Jeter. It would seem impossible that Jeter would go play in Seattle, Texas or Cincinnati, for example.
Secondly, it would need to be a team in need of making a splash. A team that needs to energize its fan base and take attention away from other professional teams in town.
Finally, it would need to be with a team with the budget flexibility to commit to an aging superstar.
There really is only one team that fits all of those criteria and that is the Mets.
The Mets share New York City with the Yankees, obviously. And the Mets desperately need to give their fans a reason to come out to the ballpark next year. Taking a Yankee icon away from their cross town rivals would be a huge win for the Mets…particularly as Jeter figures to get his 3,000th hit in early June next year.
The Mets roster presents something of a problem, however, as they have Jose Reyes at short and David Wright at third. Second base is open for the Mets; would Jeter accept a move there? While it still seems unlikely Jeter would move franchises or positions, if this situation with the Yankees turns any uglier, he just might.
Derek Jeter to the New York Mets? Unthinkable for Yankees fans, but potentially a huge win for what is now the Mets, currently the second team in New York City.
Wallace Matthews, “Yankees to Derek Jeter: Test the market”, espn.com