Thursday, September 2, 2010

Derek Jeter... A Ray?

Colin Cowherd voiced an opinion yesterday that The Captain could head to the Rays if the Yankees offered less money. Often, I find myself agreeing with Cowherd, especially when it comes to the finances of baseball, but I don't see how he could be any more wrong on this point. Even though the Rays are a contending club, and don't seem to be going anywhere for awhile, the allure of playing and living in Tampa year round would not be enough to lure Derek Jeter to the Trop. I'm not saying that out of blind passion for everything pinstripes. (I have that, but, it is not the primary reason here.)

For starters, Derek Jeter grew up a Yankee fan and recognizes his place in the pantheon of Yankee greats. Without question, he is the greatest shortstop in Yankee history, and both Derek and the organization know this. Some, including Cowherd, argue that the almighty dollar would trump any sense of historical awareness, and point to Favre leaving Green Bay and LeBron bolting Cleveland as examples of figures synonymous with teams and cities being all about the money. While both held iconic status in their former stomping grounds, neither one was in the same situation as Derek Jeter. Favre had a falling out with Packer management over his constant indecisiveness and the team having Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings, and LeBron felt the pressure of winning by himself to be too much, so he hitched his wagon to D-Wade and headed off to South Beach. As we know, Jeter isn't a solo star in the Bronx (and wouldn't be in Tampa, either), there isn't another stellar shortstop waiting to inherit the position, and Number 2 can handle the pressure of championship expectations in New York. He is also keenly aware that his Hall of Fame plaque will look even more impressive with just one team listed under his name, especially when that team is the most storied in all of sports. Becoming the first Yankee to reach 3000 hits would mean something more than the second rent-a-Ray to do so.

While acknowledging that Jeter would never go to the Red Sox, Cowherd said that he could see Derek leaving for St. Pete if the money was right. The question then becomes, would the situation be right? The answer is no. Shortstop is not a position of need for the Rays. Reid Brignac and Jason Bartlett are perfectly capable at the Major League level, backed up on occasion by Sean Rodriguez, with Tim Beckham highly touted in the Minors. Where would Jeter play for the Rays? First base isn't an option, as, even if the Rays don't resign Carlos Pena, they have Cuban signee Leslie Anderson, who projects as a first baseman or outfielder, another area where constantly cost-conscious Tampa Bay has a glut of prospects. I suppose he could DH for the former Devil Rays, but what becomes of Ben Zobrist and/or BJ Upton and/or Dioner Navarro? Additionally, the Rays have financial commitments for 2011 of just over $53 million, according to, and have expressed a desire in keeping their payroll at around $60 million for next year. So, they get Jeter at less than $7 million per year? It seems unlikely that the Yankees couldn't or wouldn't match that offer. Then, there's the possibility of 35-year old Derek Jeter playing 81 games a year on FieldTurf at the Trop. That can't be good for aging knees.

Yes, star athletes are, generally, all about the Benjamins. Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays are an exciting young club with a bright future, albeit one with a bleak outlook for a new stadium. Yes, Derek Jeter lives in Tampa in the offseason. On the surface, it makes some sense, but Colin will have to go back to the drawing board with this one, as Derek Jeter will not be a Tampa Bay Ray in 2011 or beyond.

(Outside the box thought: would the Yankees let Girardi go to the Cubs and offer Jeter the role of player-manager? I don't know if it would in any way be appealing to Derek, Joe, Yankee management, or fans, but it's an interesting thing to ponder.)

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