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September 7, 2010

Between The Numbers

Jeter Contract Crowdsourcing Results

by Ben Lindbergh

At the end of last week’s article about the issues surrounding Derek Jeter’s upcoming free agency, I polled our readers, trusting that the wisdom of crowds would get us closer to an accurate assessment of the shortstop’s approaching payday than any single analyst could. Over a thousand of you have weighed in, so this seems like as good a time as any to reveal and discuss your estimates. Here the numerical results:

Average length: 3.35 years

Average AAV: $16.20 million

Median Length: 3 years

Median AAV: $15.5 million

Standard deviation, years: .93

Standard deviation, dollars: $4.28 million

And here’s a graphical look at your responses, which—in the AAV department, at least—seem to have favored multiples of five:

According to the BP readers who responded, Jeter should expect a pay cut after raking in $21 million this season, but the expected salary decline would still leave him one of baseball’s best-compensated players over the next few years. It’s difficult to imagine that Jeter’s on-field performance alone would be worth $16 million during his age-39 season, so most of you must have found Vince Gennaro’s estimates of Jeter’s marquee value convincing, or assumed that the Yankees would be willing take a loss in order to keep their Captain in pinstripes until he retires.

Jeter enjoyed a slight home field advantage when it came to the expected terms of his contract:

Yankees Fan?

% of Respondents

Average AAV

Average Length

Yes

27.2

16.95

3.47

No

72.8

15.92

3.30

Yankees fans awarded Jeter roughly an extra million dollars per season, though we can’t say what factors influenced their collective decision. Perhaps the warm, fuzzy feelings generated during Jeter's first 16 seasons in pinstripes clouded their thinking, but it’s also possible that their familiarity with the team accorded them a more accurate appraisal of Jeter’s on-field future, as well as a better sense of what the Yankees might be willing to offer and what the shortstop might be willing to accept.

Regardless of team allegiance, respondents were clearly conflicted about Jeter’s financial prospects. Although Jeter’s mean expected annual salary was almost identical to the figure that FanGraphs readers projected for Carl Crawford, the standard deviation was significantly higher in Jeter’s case, suggesting much less agreement among those who submitted estimates. Given the uncertainty surrounding Jeter’s on-field future in light of the career-worst offensive showing with which he’s followed his MVP-caliber 2009 campaign, as well as the degree to which his worth hinges on his marquee value (which is relatively difficult to quantify), that sort of variance makes sense. The poll results do suggest a consensus about the length of Jeter’s next contract, with the vast majority of respondents foreseeing a pact in the range of 3-4 years, which would echo the Yankees’ recent commitments to Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada.

Based on these numbers, it seems that most of you view Jeter as a more valuable commodity than a generic two-win shortstop hitting the open market on the wrong side of 35, and there’s plenty of evidence to support that position. However, there is a level of play at which the combination of Jeter’s on-field production and off-field marquee value would no longer merit a roster spot. If Jeter remains a Yankee at an annual rate of $16 million or more, and his performance descends below that level before his contract runs its course, his Yankeeography could yet have an ugly ending. With just a shade under $95 million already allotted to Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, A.J. Burnett, and Curtis Granderson in 2013 (not to mention the arbitration raises scheduled for other players currently under contract), an eight-figure commitment to a 39-year-old Jeter might represent the tip of an iceberg lying in wait for the Captain's aging crew.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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