The New York Yankees reportedly overpaid Derek Jeter, the team's beloved captain, to save money. I hope it was one last thank-you for the 39-year-old shortstop.
A 1-year, $12 million deal means the Yankees will have about $2 million more to work with this offseason to keep the team's budget below the luxury tax threshold. (If the Yankees had to book Jeter's player option (1-year/$9.5 million) for 2014, his average annual salary for his contract -- what counts for luxury tax accounting purposes -- would be about $14.5 million/year.)
However, I don't think re-signing Jeter was, as some reporters are calling it, a way for the Yankees to save "fake luxury tax money." I think it's a final sendoff.
If Jeter -- and the Yankees -- planned for the future Hall of Famer to play beyond this season, Brian Cashman could have offered Jeter a 2-year, $20 million deal, which would have calculated to a $10 million/year average annual salary while still giving a Jeter a hair above his player option.
The bottom line is, it's all about the money.
Most Yankees fans would agree that Jeter isn't worth more than $7 million a year, and there are plenty of fans who don't think that he's even worth half that. Then why throw more money at him? He brings fannies into the seats, something the Yankees are going to have trouble doing next season. Attendance in 2013 was down 7.4 percent from 2012, and the team has already announced that thousands of tickets next season will drop in price. Why pay Jeter? To give fans something to watch other than aging ex-All-Stars and replacement-level scrubs.
To put things into perspective, Jeter will now make more than David Ortiz next season and about a half-million dollars less than Dustin Pedroia -- a player who's 10 years younger, a far superior fielder, and played 143 more games than Jeter this season. Jeter hit .190 (12-for-63) with one home run and seven RBIs this year. He played 13 games at shortstop and four at designated hitter, and he landed on the disabled list four times.
To get back on a path to success, the Yankees need to rebuild and -- like it or not -- Jeter should not be a part of those plans. Re-signing Jeter to an astronomical contract and branding next season around his goodbye will make a sub-.500 season easier for Yankees to watch.
Howard Z. Unger is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. For the past 15 years, he has written about sports, media, and popular culture. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, New York Post, and New York Times.
- Sports & Recreation
- Derek Jeter