Start spreadin’ the news: Derek Jeter is so valuable to the New York Yankees that he’ll be able to demand a contract for close to the $19 million a year he gets now, according to compensation consultants.
“Derek Jeter is Frank Sinatra,” Alan Johnson, founder of New York-based Johnson Associates Inc., a compensation analysis firm, said in a telephone interview. “He’s Madonna. He’s being paid as an entertainer rather than as a sports guy.”
The 36-year-old shortstop’s stature as captain of the Yankees and the face of North America’s most successful sports franchise may outweigh any decline in hits, runs or fielding range when he and team management negotiate a new contract as soon as next month.
As the Yankees open baseball’s American League Championship Series tonight at the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Jeter is in the final days of a 10-year, $189 million deal. His performance, while important for the team, shouldn’t be more than a footnote when his new contract is discussed, Johnson said.
Sinatra, the singer and actor who died in 1998 at 82 and whose version of “New York, New York” is played after each home victory at Yankee Stadium, had annual income a decade before his death estimated at $12 million by Forbes. Madonna’s 2008-2009 “Sticky and Sweet Tour,” which began a week after her 50th birthday in August 2008, grossed $222 million, according to Billboard magazine.
Las Vegas bookmakers have New York the second favorite to win the World Series behind the Philadelphia Phillies, who face the San Francisco Giants for the National League pennant beginning tomorrow. A successful title defense by the Yankees would give Jeter his sixth championship ring and the team its record-extending 28th title.
Jeter is a brand ambassador the likes of casino mogul Steve Wynn or fashion designer Ralph Lauren, according to Graef Crystal, who studies executive compensation. Wynn, the chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd., received $8.4 million in 2009 pay, while Lauren, who heads Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., earned $27.7 million, said Crystal, a consultant to Bloomberg News.
Jeter was selected as the team’s 11th captain in 2003. He manned the microphone to close the old Yankee Stadium in September 2008 and again represented the team at a July ceremony marking the deaths of owner George Steinbrenner and public address announcer Bob Sheppard. He is the Yankees’ career hits leader, needing 74 to reach 3,000.
His endorsement agreements include Ford Motor Co. and Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette razors, helping make Jeter the eighth-highest earning American athlete this year with $31 million, according to SI.com.
Jeter would be eligible for free agency and could sign with any team once his contract expires.
“He’ll never be in another uniform,” former teammate Tino Martinez, now a special assistant to Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman, said in an interview, offering what he said is only his opinion. “I’m sure he’ll get a three- year deal, probably making the same money.”
The only 34-and-older shortstops since the 1990-91 offseason to sign contracts in excess of $5 million were Marco Scutaro, who received $12.5 million over two years from the Boston Red Sox in 2009, and Miguel Tejada, who got a one-year, $5 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles this season, according to ESPN.
Jeter said in February he “never envisioned playing anywhere else” and that he wouldn’t discuss his contract status again this season. He has since refused any attempt to talk about his future. The Yankees have a policy of not negotiating with players until their contracts are complete.
Jeter’s agent, Casey Close, didn’t return a message left at his office seeking comment about Jeter’s contract status.
A career .314 hitter, Jeter batted .270 this season, the lowest since he became a starter in 1996. His .370 slugging percentage was the worst of his career, signaling dwindling power. With his range at shortstop also diminishing, as measured by FanGraphs.com, it might be difficult to move him to a less-demanding position, with third baseman Alex Rodriguez signed through 2017 and first baseman Mark Teixeira through 2016.
“Production might be off, but he’s still, to many, the face of that organization,” said David Carter, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Sports Business Group. “Both sides have to step back and say there is unlikely to be a solution outside of getting a deal done that’s going to be beneficial long term to either party.”
The Yankees have 8-5 odds to win the World Series, trailing the Phillies, who are 6-5 favorites, according to the Hilton Race and Sports Book in Las Vegas. The Rangers are 5-1 and San Francisco is 8-1, meaning a $10 bet on the Giants to win would net $80 plus the original wager.
Jeter holds the mark for postseason games played with 141, and he’s due to pass Manny Ramirez atop the league championship series list, with 50, on Oct. 18. He’s the career playoff leader in hits (179) and runs (99), and third in home runs with 20. During the regular season he’s hit a homer once every 45 plate appearances, while in the playoffs his numbers improve to one every 33. The team has missed the playoffs only once in his career, in 2008.
“Derek is used to being in this situation,” manager Joe Girardi said this week at a news conference. “It’s what he’s experienced his whole career. I don’t know if you expect more, you just expect him to be Derek.”
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