Why did the Yankees give Jeter $12 million? Because he's Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter will return for another year with the Yankees. (USATSI)
Derek Jeter will return for another year with the Yankees. (USATSI)

Derek Jeter could barely play this year. There's no guarantee at all that next year will be any better.

The Yankees just signed him for $12 million.


Because he's Derek Jeter.

It's really that simple, and early assumptions Friday that the Yankees signed Jeter to a new contract to help them with luxury-tax issues were wrong. The new deal will actually give them a slightly higher Jeter salary for luxury-tax calculations, not a lower one.

So why do it, when the Yankees could have simply let Jeter exercise his $9.5 million player option for 2014?

Because he's Derek Jeter.

Jeter and agent Casey Close worked out the new deal with Yankee owner Hal Steinbrenner. And if Steinbrenner's goal was to avoid any of the acrimony that went along with Jeter's last negotiation with the Yankees, well, then maybe it was $2.5 million (the difference between the $9.5 million option and the new $12 million contract) well spent.

Even if Jeter can't play at a $12 million level (or any level) next year.

He couldn't do it in 2013, when he was limited to just 17 games because of various leg issues all caused in one way or another by the broken left ankle he suffered during the 2012 playoffs. Jeter maintained late in the season that he should be better after a full winter of recovery and work, but he maintained last winter that he would be able to play at his usual high level.

And he couldn't.

Medical people unconnected to his case have been skeptical that he can, and especially that he can play shortstop at an acceptable level on a daily basis. It can't help that Jeter will turn 40 next June 26.

As the Yankees go through the rest of their winter, they'll certainly need to make sure they have a backup plan at short, in case Jeter can't make it or simply proves to be too immobile or too compromised by the ankle to handle playing shortstop.

But as long as Jeter wanted to come back, the Yankees had very little choice but to say yes. He had that player option in his contract ... and he's Derek Jeter.

Once it was clear that Jeter wanted to return, the only remaining question was how much he'd be paid. The Yankees could have held fast at the $9.5 million and risked a public relations problem, or they could work out a deal for a higher number they could accept.

They settled on $12 million.

It seems like a lot, if you think of Jeter as a soon-to-be-40 shortstop with questionable health.

It doesn't seem like much if you just think of him as Derek Jeter, the most popular player on a team where so many other stars are fading or departing.

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