Over the course of the 2010 MLB season, when the conversation turned to the upcoming free agent market, little attention was paid to Derek Jeter.
The fates of Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee have inspired countless articles and debates, but few writers spilled ink on his pending free agency because it seemed unfathomable that the Yankees captain would ever play anywhere but New York.
Now, with the two sides reportedly separated by as much as $100 million in contract negotiations, there is a very realistic possibility that Jeter could be suiting up somewhere else come 2011.
Of course, the Yankees aren't likely to let that happen; assuming Jeter relents at least a little bit from his unreasonable demands, they'll want to keep the face of their franchise in pinstripes. But now that Jeter leaving looks like a real possibility, we should take the time to wonder if New York really needs him.
In this slideshow are 10 reasons why the Bombers could survive if they let Jeter walk.
How many players could command a blockbuster contract with a walk-year OPS of .710?
The 2010 season was easily the worst of Jeter's career; the Yankees captain set career lows in average (.270), OBP (.340) and SLG (.370), while accumulating an unimpressive 2.5 WAR. Doesn't sound like a superstar.
But this was just one down year in a career that spans 16 seasons, and isn't it wrong to ignore all that a player has done before? Yes, but this situation is different because...
In a vacuum, Jeter's offensive downturn this year would be notable, but not damning. In context, though, it's clear that this is part of a larger trend.
His monster 2009 excepted, Jeter, now 36, has been steadily declining since 2006, when he hit .343/.417/.483. His 2007 (.322/.388/.452) and 2008 (.300/.363/.408) seasons segue neatly to his pedestrian 2010 .270/.340/.370 slashline.
Jeter may be immortalized in Yankees lore, but he's far from ageless on the field. That's not to say he'd be an offensive liability by the time his contract would end, but those who think Jeter's 2010 was just an isolated slump is in for a rude awakening.
But batting is only half the game; adding to the trouble is...
Forget his incomprehensible Gold Gloves. Forget his reputation as a phenomenal fielder and the lavish praise heaped upon him by the New York media. Derek Jeter is completely inept in the field.
Yes, he's good at literally getting the ball in and out of his glove cleanly when it's hit to him. But he's consistently among the worst in the game in terms range—actually getting to the ball when it's not hit right at him.
To judge him by his aversion to obvious errors instead of the much more numerous and equally damning plays he simply can't get to is to exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of the meaning of good defense.
Were Jeter to leave the Bronx, the Yankees defense would actually improve because they have...
Rather than look for an external option if Jeter leaves, the Yankees would plug 23-year-old prospect Eduardo Nunez in at shortstop.
In 30 games with the big-league club in 2010, Nunez hit .280/.321/.360 (a better average than Jeter had). He demonstrated great contact skills, whiffing just two times in 53 trips to the plate. He showed solid wheels as well, with five stolen bases.
Reports on his defense vary, but the consensus seems to be that he has a cannon arm, at least the potential to be a good fielder, and that he'd be a definite upgrade over Jeter.
Of course, if the Yankees decide they want to go a different direction...
It seems like ages ago that Alex Rodriguez was playing shortstop for the Texas Rangers. It's easy to forget that the Yankees' current third baseman won two Gold Gloves at his old position while in Arlington.
Let me make myself clear: I am in no way suggesting that A-Rod moving back to short is a good idea. If he's been worth -25.7 UZR over the last five years at third base over the last five years, he'd be a complete train wreck at short.
But even if A-Rod isn't worth his exorbitant salary, his offense is consistently good enough to offset his subpar D. Oh, speaking of exorbitant salaries...
Initial reports about Derek Jeter's contract demands were that he was using six years and $150 million as a starting point for the negotiations. That would be the ninth-biggest contract in baseball history, and the most lucrative of any deal shorter than seven years.
Subsequent rumors have suggested that these figures were exaggerated, but consensus is that Jeter wants at least four years and a $23 million annual salary.
It would have been hard to justify paying Jeter more than $20 million a season in his prime, let alone now that he's in his decline. If he's holding out for that kind of money, he's going to be waiting a long time.
But surely the well-financed Yankees can afford to overpay their captain? Yes, but...
The Yankees initially offered Jeter three years and $45 million. That's a pay cut of nearly $4 million a year for the face of the franchise. Isn't that a bit harsh?
Not compared to what he'd get elsewhere. Given his decline and age, it's unlikely he would get more $15 million (total, not annually) from any other team.
Yankees fans would be heartbroken by the loss of their hometown hero, but the rest of baseball will have a hard time finding fault with New York's efforts.
But Bomber fans might not have to see Jeter suit up for another team because...
Is Jeter's possible departure a nightmare scenario because the Yankees really need him? Or is it that New York fans can't bear the thought of him playing for any other team?
I suspect it's at least partially the latter, and in that case there may be a possible solution: retirement. In a radio interview Sunday, Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said Jeter "would retire before he would go to another team."
I'm not saying he should hang up his cleats, and I don't think he will. But it's something to keep in mind.
But maybe I'm wrong—maybe Yankees fans really think they need Jeter. Well...
A key member of the Yankees roster rejects his team's contract proposal out of an overinflated sense of self-worth and a game of chicken ensues as the two sides both play hard to get.
Sound familiar? It should. This winter's Jeter fiasco has obvious parallels with last year's Johnny Damon drama.
Even after the Yankees traded for Curtis Granderson and the two sides apparently stopped negotiating, many observers—myself included—assumed Damon would be back in pinstripes because it seemed that they needed each other.
Damon signed in Detroit. New York stuck with Brett Gardner. Life went on.
To a lesser extent, the same could have been said for Hideki Matsui, who the Yankees let go a few weeks after he was named the 2009 World Series MVP.
But those two don't hold the same place in Yankees history that Jeter does, so they're not the best comparisons. Still...
In April 1965, Yogi Berra signed with the New York Mets, yet no one thinks of him as anything but a Yankee.
In December 1966, Roger Maris was traded to St. Louis. He played with the Cardinals for the last two years of his career. No one remembers his days with the Redbirds.
Even the mighty Babe Ruth didn't finish his career in the Bronx. The day the Yankees released him, he signed on with the Boston Braves.
If the greatest Yankee of all time didn't tarnish his legacy in pinstripes by hitting his last home runs in Beantown, why are we so worried about Jeter's?
For more by Lewie, visit WahooBlues.com.