What If A-Rod Hadn’t Opted Out?
Derek Jeter is a free agent for the first time, and the New York Yankees shortstop is reportedly looking for a payday anywhere between $22-25 million a year, and between four and six seasons, with the Yankees wanting to give him a three-year, $45 million deal. Nearly every article about him brings up the precedent of Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract in 2007 and getting a 10-year, $275 million plus incentives deal from the Yankees. There’s the subtext among the captain’s defenders that Jeter should make close to A-Rod’s salary, and should also get paid to the age of 42, the way Rodriguez will be. The argument has little to do with stats, and much to do with intangibles, like Jeter’s demeanor and leadership skills.
Brian Costa of the Wall Street Journal says Rodriguez’s deal as “looms large over the negotiations,” writing, “For the Yankees, it’s a mistake they are determined to avoid repeating. For Mr. Jeter, it must make the Yankees’ hardball approach especially difficult to accept, even if he has little choice but to eventually do so.”
But what if A-Rod hadn’t opted out? His original 10-year, $252 million deal with the Texas Rangers, which helped Jeter get his own 10-year deal from the Yanks, albeit at $189 million, would have expired the same time as Jeter’s contract. And instead of Jeter and his defenders pointing to the precedent of No. 13′s record-breaking contract, they’d be scrambling to get more money from the Yankees at the same time Rodriguez hit the open market again.
How delicious would it have been to have the two rivals — compared so much to each other over the years — as free agents at the same time? And who would win in such a contract battle? Let’s compare how the two athletes’ numbers match up since 2004, when Rodriguez became a Yankee.
Here are Jeters’s stats (numbers courtesy of Baseball Musings):
Batting Average: .310, OBP: .379, Slugging: .442, OPS: .822, 1083 games, 759 runs, 1380 hits, 107 homers, 530 RBI
Jeter won five Gold Gloves, zero MVPs, and one World Series title during this time period.
And here are Rodriguez’s stats:
Batting Average: .296, OBP: .393, Slugging: .559, OPS: .952, 1028 games, 748 runs, 1137 hits, 268 homers, 841 RBI
A-Rod won two MVPs, zero Gold Gloves, and one World Series title during this time period.
Jeter has the advantage in batting average and number of hits, but the power-hitting Rodriguez has him beat in homers, RBI, and OPS, the stat which adds on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Contracts are paid not just on past stats, but for what the player is supposed to do in the future. Although a bad hip has slowed A-Rod down, he still has hit 30+ homers and driven in 100+ RBI every year since 1998, and should continue to do so for at least a few more years. Jeter, a career .314 hitter, hit .300 in 2008, .334 in 2009, and just .270 in 2010. Jeter could have another year like 2009 — or another year like 2010.
If they were on the market on the same time, who would win? My guess is that Rodriguez would end up with more money than Jeter, because of his power, and because he can move to DH when he can no longer play third base, while there’s no obvious place to put Jeter. And the pro-Jeter forces would lose their top argument, which seems to be that if A-Rod is signed through age 42 at a premium, so should Jeter. At any rate, I can’t see the Yankees — or anybody else — giving either of them more than three-year deals.
Photo by Keith Allison
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