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According to Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times Bats Blog, the Yankees and Derek Jeter are close to a three-year agreement that will include a “highly unusual” and “creative hybrid-type option”. In his post, Schmidt includes the words “for a fourth year”, but doesn’t attribute them to his source. So, maybe the creative option doesn’t have anything to do with an extension of the contract? Either way, below are three guesses at what the deal’s creative addendum might be.

1)      A mutual option based on performance in the first three years

Assuming the two sides could agree to a formula, the value Jeter provided during the contract could be evaluated against the money paid to him. In other words, if the formula determined Jeter provided $40 million in value, it would be subtracted from the rumored $52 million contract total. Then, that $12 million difference would be used to fund a fourth year, which might be predetermined at something like $25 million (the annual value of Jeter’s rumored first request). As a result of the math, the Yankees would then have the option of paying Jeter $13 million in 2014. If they declined the option, a percentage buyout could be included. Similarly, if Jeter outperformed his contract, the amount would be added to the same $25 million starting point, but with a higher percentage buyout included if the Yankees declined. In both cases, negotiated minimums and maximums could be determined. Also, the contract could include conditions under which Jeter would be able to opt out of the fourth year.

Highly Unusual? Yes. Creative? I’ll leave that for you to decide.

2)      An option to buy part of the team upon retirement

As mentioned above, there is no confirmation that the “ creative option” involves a fourth year. So, why not offer Jeter the chance to become an owner?

Baseball rules prohibit active players from owning equity in a major league franchise, but what about a future invitation to buy a stake? If permissible, the “creative option” would give Jeter the right to acquire a specified interest in the team at pre-determined cost. Considering the exponential way the Yankees’ value has been increasing, such an option would be highly attractive to the business-minded Jeter, even if the eventual sale price is close to market value. From the Yankees’ perspective, having Jeter become a limited partner would not only provide some cash flow, but also ensure an even closer association with the team than might otherwise be expected (i.e., more than just throwing out first pitches and attending Old Timers Day).

3)      A personal services contract upon retirement

Just in case option #2 is against major league rules, the Yankees could accomplish a similar end by transitioning Jeter to an “employee” when his playing days are over.

One of the arguments made by the Jeter camp is his “brand value” should be incorporated into the value of his new contract. The Yankees have argued that to build a winner, its focus must remain on the field. So, why not compromise and offer to compensate Jeter for the value he adds to the business side…but hold off on most of it until he is finished playing? Whether it’s a 10-year, 20-year or lifetime deal, the advantage of the personal services contract is it wouldn’t count as payroll and therefore not be calculated against the luxury tax. Also, if it includes work done for YES, the Yankees’ partners in the venture would share the cost.

Thankfully, the two sides have replaced the intrigue about whether a deal would get done with how it will be structured. The solutions mentioned above are probably too unusual to actually be considered, but who knows. Your guess (feel free to leave one in the comments section below) is as good as mine.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeU.)

Over the last 24 hours, the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres have all but agreed to a deal that would send All Star 1B Adrian Gonzalez headed east for a package of prospects. Although no one can dispute Gonzalez’ talents as a player, does the move alone make the Red Sox better?

The Red Sox hope to add Gonzalez’ powerful opposite field swing to their lineup.

There are two small red flags with Gonzalez. The first is he has played most of his career in one of the weakest divisions in baseball: the National League West. Because performance is best measured relative to competition, the Padres’ 1B may not be as successful playing in the AL East. Again, that’s not really a major concern, but it could suggest a lower level to what should be high expectations. The second question mark deals with Gonzalez’ recent surgery to repair his injured right shoulder. Speaking on XX1090AM in San Diego, the Padres’ slugging 1B indicated the surgery would require a long rehab and that he might not be able to swing a bat for 4-5 months. That was on November 10. Doing the math, it’s possible that Gonzalez will not be ready to take his normal cuts until at least Spring Training, but perhaps as late as Opening Day.  If the latter, it’s very possible that Gonzalez wouldn’t be in peak form until several weeks, or months, into the season.

Even with both of those concerns noted, acquiring Gonzalez is close to a no-brainer for the Red Sox, provided they are able to sign him to a long-term contract. Of course, picking up star players in the trade market also comes with another cost, which in this case could be Casey Kelly (ranked 18th overall by ESPN’s Keith Law), the team’s top prospect. If the combination of money expended (Gonzalez’ 2011 salary is a low $6.3 million, but a renegotiated deal could inflate that figure) and prospects traded prevent the team from making another acquisition (e.g., Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, Justin Upton, etc.), the end result might not look so good.

Finally, if the deal for Gonzalez is consummated, that likely means the end of Adrian Beltre’s brief time in Boston. Going forward, it’s almost certain that Gonzalez will be a more productive hitter than Beltre. However, it isn’t for sure that he’ll perform much better than Beltre did in 2010. So, when you also consider Beltre’s top-shelf defense at a key position like third, the exchange becomes even less favorable. After all, Gonzalez’ gold glove at 1B will be replacing Kevin Youkilis’, who would be asked to move across the diamond to third, where he isn’t as sound defensively. Even if Youkilis is able to play third base at an acceptable level, he likely will not be in the class of Beltre. As a result, with all things considered, the Red Sox could be taking a step back in terms of infield defense.

With the departure of Beltre and Victor Martinez, the Red Sox have some ground to make up on offense. Without a doubt, Adrian Gonzalez goes along way toward doing just that. However, Boston will need its new acquisition to be healthy as well as able to make a quick adjustment to the AL East. What’s more, after wrapping up the deal, the Red Sox will need to have enough flexibility to make another addition. If everything falls into place, the deal should revive Boston’s standing in the division, but if the questions mentioned above are not answered in the affirmative, the benefit of adding Gonzalez might wind up being a more long-term proposition.

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While the Yankees continue to bicker with their legendary shortstop, the Colorado Rockies have taken a dramatic step to lock up a player who they think will become one.

Tulowitzki wears #2 in honor of Derek Jeter, his boyhood idol.

Yankees’ fans probably first took notice of Troy Tulowitzki back in June 2007, when he went 5-12 in the Rockies’ three game sweep of the Bronx Bombers.  Even as all eyes in that series were taking notice of Tulowitzki, the young shortstop was still fixated on his counterpart in pinstripes. According to Tulowitzki, who wears number two to honor Derek Jeter and used to hang a pitcher of the future Hall of Famer in his locker, the specter of playing the Yankees was a key motivation for making the ballclub out of spring training that season. Before the series, the Rockies’ rookie even bought bottles of Jeter’s cologne, Driven, for all of his teammates, and went so far as to ask for an autograph from the Yankees’ shortstop.

He’s a winner, you know what I mean? Growing up, I always saw the Yankees in the World Series. He was always the guy coming up with the clutch hit. He just seemed like a good leader out there, and a very good player at that.” – Troy Tulowitzki, The New York Times, June 21, 2007

Since he was selected seventh overall in the 2005 draft, Tulowitzki has inspired expectations of greatness. After an impressive rookie campaign in 2007, which was capped by a very strong final two months amid a furious pennant race, it seemed as if all of those predictions were coming to fruition. As a result, the Rockies decided to lock Tulowitzki up to a six year/$31 million deal after the season. Unfortunately, an injury in 2008 set the promising young star back in his development, but by the second half of 2009 (.344/.421/.622), he was back on track to the stardom everyone had been expecting.

In case anyone had forgotten his promise, Tulowitzki put on another second half show in 2010, including a historic September in which he hit 16 HRs and knocked in 40 runs as the Rockies tried in vain to catch the Giants and Padres. Once again, the Rockies responded to their shortstop’s continued emergence with another large contract extension. According to published reports, the new deal will pay Tulowitzki an additional $134 million from 2014 to 2020. When combined with the years remaining on his previous deal, the annual value will end up a shade below $16 million.

Incredibly, some have already characterized the deal as bad for both sides, and even questioned Tulowitzki’s fortitude for not trying to break the bank in free agency after the 2014 season. Although it is true that the 25-year old shortstop likely would have earned a significant amount more by waiting for free agency, it seems absurd to question his decision to not only ensure his family’s financial security for generations to come, but also make it possible to remain in a city that he seemingly enjoys.

From the Rockies standpoint, they are betting that Tulowitzki’s 2009 and 2010 performances are only the beginning of his path toward stardom. It isn’t a stretch to imagine the shortstop as being among the best players in the game by 2014, so preemptively signing him to a new deal could wind up saving the team millions of dollar per season over what they would have had to bid in free agency.

It’s only natural to compare the value of Tulowitzki’s new contract to the amount being sought by Jeter, but the comparison really isn’t fair. For starters, the Rockies’ shortstop was not a free agent, and therefore lacked the leverage that Jeter has now. Secondly, Jeter’s stature in the organization has led his agent to argue that the Yankee legend contributes equity to the team’s brand, something that doesn’t quite exist in Colorado. So, although Tulowitzki’s value on the field should far surpass Jeter’s going forward, it is much too simple to compare each player’s salary on that basis alone.

Tulowitzki’s connection with Jeter makes the juxtaposition of each player’s current situation all the more interesting. With all of the reports about the Yankees looking to hold the line on three additional years for Jeter, don’t doubt for a second that the Rockies desire for an extension wasn’t at least in part due to the expectation that the pinstripers would be a major player for Tulowitzki in free agency. And, even if the thought never occurred to the Rockies, you can bet it has crossed the minds of many Yankees fans who envisioned the talented Tulowitzki as an heir apparent to Jeter. With the signing of this extension, however, that dream has been dashed.

When his10-year deal expires in 2020, Tulowitzki will be a ripe old 36, just as his idol is right now. It remains to be seen how he will measure up to Jeter over the course of his career, but come that time, we could have another dicey negotiation on our hands. Perhaps, if Jeter has time in between crafting his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he’ll be able to provide Tulowitzki with some advice on how to handle the situation. In the meantime, Jeter is the one who could probably use some words of wisdom. Does anyone have Cal Ripken’s phone number?

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After a nearly two-month search, the Mets are poised to name Terry Collins as their next manager, according to several media reports.

Collins first managerial job was with the Astros in 1994, but could have been as a Yankee several years earlier.

The hiring of Collins, who served as Mets’ minor league coordinator in 2010,  really shouldn’t come as a surprise considering his recent connection to both the organization and new vice president of player development and scouting Paul DePodesta.  In 2004, Collins was one of three finalists for the Mets’ managerial position before losing out to Willie Randolph. Then, one year later when DePodesta was General Manager of the Dodgers, Collins was believed to be the front runner to replace Jim Tracy as skipper. However, midway through his search for a new manager, DePodesta was unexpectedly fired by Los Angeles, and the team’s new GM Ned Colletti eventually settled on Grady Little.

It’s been 11 years since Collins managed in the big leagues. His last game as a major league field general was a 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians on September 2, 1999, after which he resigned the position. With the Yankees in town to begin a four-game series, Collins held an emotional press conference to announce his decision, which then Angels’ GM Bill Bavasi insisted was completely voluntary.

Collins second stint as manager with the Angels ended with a teary resignation.

Before serving as manager of the Angels from 1997 to the end of the 1999 season, and after several successful seasons leading the triple-A Alburquerque Dukes (Dodgers) and Buffalo Bisons (Pirates), Collins got his first shot at managing in the majors in Houston, where he led the Astros to a 224-197 record from 1994 to 1996. However, his first breakthrough almost came with the Yankees several seasons earlier.

Even before Dallas Green was fired during the 1989 season, the Yankees were rumored to have had an interest in both Collins and the Buffalo Bisons’ triple-A affiliate that he managed. Leading up to Green’s dismissal on August 18, 1989, the Yankees reportedly had expressed increasing interest in moving their triple-A operations from Columbus to Buffalo as well as adding Collins to the organization as a coach. Sure enough, the day after firing Green, two Yankees’ executives, including George Bradley, then vice president of player development, traveled to Buffalo, sparking rumors that Collins was either ticketed for the Bronx or Columbus, which was in need of a new manager after Bucky Dent was named interim manager.

Once again, however, fate played an unfortunate hand for Collins when Yankees GM Syd Thrift, who was hired only five months prior, resigned a little over one week after Green was fired. Thrift, whose four-year tenure as Pirates GM came to an end when he was fired after the 1988 season, was thought to be the driving force behind the Yankees’ interest in relocating their triple-A club to Buffalo as well as one of Collins’ biggest advocates in the organization. With Thrift gone from the picture, talk about Collins and Buffalo subsided, and the Yankees eventually decided to appoint Dent as full-time manager.

After two close calls, Terry Collins has finally made it to the top of the heap as a manager in New York. Some have expressed concerns about his high strung personality, particularly with regard to handling the pressure that comes with managing in the big city, but the Mets’ have clearly settled on a manager with extensive baseball experience. Even more importantly, their selection represents a complete break from the more laid back culture that the team has fostered since firing Bobby Valentine after the 2002 season. Although the Mets probably couldn’t turn back the clock and rehire Valentine, opting for Collins seems to be the next best thing. Ultimately, success on the field will be determined by the players that new GM Sandy Alderson is able to obtain, but in Collins, the Mets have definitely taken another step in a new direction.

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Brian Cashman is on his way to Arkansas to meet with Cliff Lee, so he may need a little reading material on the plane. What better time for the third installment of our blueprint series? The first two proposals (click here and here) dealt with bigger names like Carlos Zambrano, Colby Rasmus and Matt Kempt, but teams also need to properly fill in the bottom of the 25-man roster. With that in mind, it’s time to turn an eye toward the Yankees’ unsettled catching position.

The catching tandem of Posada and Cervelli struggled on defense in 2010 (Photo: The Star-Ledger).

With the exception of Derek Jeter’s free agency, no topic in Yankee land has been more widely discussed than the role that Jorge Posada will play in 2011. Adding further intrigue to the story, the New York Times is reporting that Posada will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. The procedure is considered a minor one, but at age 39, any kind of injury has to be taken seriously. As a result, Brian Cashman has reportedly told Posada to prepare to come into camp as a catcher, but also expect to spend considerable time at DH. What’s more, several sources have also stated that the Yankees have every intention of giving wunderkind Jesus Montero a real shot at winning a significant role on the team. All of that makes perfect sense, and yet, something still seems to be missing in the equation.

In 2010, Posada and Francisco Cervelli nearly split the catching duties down the middle, and in the process became the first pair to record over 300 plate appearances as a catcher in franchise history. Even with Cervelli’s paltry .694 OPS factored in, Yankees’ catchers still finished first in the American League with a wOBA of .339. However, on defense, the tables were completely turned. Not only did the Yankees’ lead all of the majors with 21 errors from behind the plate (Cervelli’s 13 and Posada’s 8 actually led the ballclub), they also ranked dead last in CS%, trailing even the Red Sox abysmal rate of 19.9% by a full five points.

Like Candy from a Baby: Ten Easiest Teams to Steal Against

Team

Inn E SB CS CS%
Yankees 1442.1 21 132 23 14.8%
Red Sox 1456.2 8 169 42 19.9%
Cubs 1436.2 8 114 31 21.4%
Pirates 1411.2 12 116 32 21.6%
Rangers 1455.1 12 116 35 23.2%
Angels 1449.1 17 133 41 23.6%
Brewers 1439 11 100 31 23.7%
Diamondbacks 1432 3 115 36 23.8%
Orioles 1436.1 8 83 27 24.5%
Rays 1453.2 11 89 30 25.2%

Source: fangraphs.com

If you haven’t figured it out yet, one of the Yankees’ greatest weaknesses in 2010 was defense behind the plate. So, how do they go about filling that hole?

Free Agent Acquisition: Miguel Olivo

Jesus Montero is expected to get a chance to go north with the club in 2011.

Unfortunately, the defensive reputation of Montero is not very encouraging. Scouting reports have labeled his skills behind the plate anywhere from awful to acceptable, so his defensive contribution will remain a question mark, to say the least. Fellow prospect Austin Romine, who is also reportedly being considered for a roll in 2011, does enjoy a more flattering defensive reputation, but all signs point to his starting the year in Scranton. So, aside from Montero and Posada, that pretty much leaves Cervelli as the only other option. In others words, unless an acquisition is made, the Yankees shouldn’t expect much defense from behind the plate in 2011.

There is, however, a potential free agent who would fit the Yankees’ need: Miguel Olivo.

The Blue Jays recently acquired Miguel Olivo from the Rockies and then promptly declined his option, deciding instead to offer him arbitration. Because Olivo is a type-B player, the Blue Jays would receive a supplemental pick if he were to sign with another team, which is presumably exactly what Toronto would like him to do. Assuming he doesn’t accept arbitration, Olivo would be free to field offers.

Olivo is a decent bat for a catcher, making up in power for what he lacks in getting on base. In particular, he is a more than competent stick against lefthanders, posting a .284/.318/.503 line in 896 career plate appearances. The Yankees aren’t looking for offense from the position, however. What makes Olivo attractive are his defensive skills, particularly his career caught stealing rate of 35.4%, which ranks just behind Joe Mauer for 12th best among all active catchers.

Active Caught Stealing Percentage Leaders

Rank Player (age) CS%
1 Yadier Molina (27) 46.82
2 Ivan Rodriguez (38) 44.49
3 Henry Blanco (38) 42.93
4 Alberto Castillo (40) 41.46
5 Jose Molina (35) 39.45
6 David Ross (33) 38.55
7 Gerald Laird (30) 37.94
8 Brian Schneider (33) 37.09
9 Mark Johnson (34) 36.61
10 Brandon Inge (33) 36.31
11 Joe Mauer (27) 35.75
12 Miguel Olivo (31) 35.03

Note: Minimum 200 SB attempts
Source: Baseball-reference.com

How He Fits

If the Yankees were able to land Olivo, they could pretty much use him in a 40/40/20 platoon with Montero and Posada. Of course, if Montero

Miguel Olivo could help the Yankees fill in a defensive gap behind the plate (Photo: Getty Images).

blossomed either behind the plate or in the batter’s box, that could be adjusted, but at the very least, the Yankees would have a strong defensive minded backup plan in the event he required more seasoning (or Posada’s injuries prohibited him from catching at all). Also, with three catchers on the roster, the Yankees could more easily pinch hit in high leverage situations, thereby reducing the negative impact of Olivo’s below average bat. In other words, the Yankees could enjoy the best of both worlds by strategically employing Olivo’s defense without enduring too much of a negative impact from his low on base percentage.

At this point, someone is likely to point out that Cervelli’s OPS+ was just a shade below Olivo’s, but with a much higher on base percentage. If only the Yankees could be sure Cervelli would provide above average defense, they might be just fine employing him as a third catcher, especially considering the reduced cost. Unfortunately, however, Cervelli’s defense was so poor (his second half offense was equally bad) that the Yankees can not take that chance. 2011 is going to be a year of transition behind the plate, and there really is no room for a third party who can neither hit nor play defense at an acceptable level.

Money Matter$

There are two potential problems with this plan. The first is Olivo could wind up accepting arbitration. After making $2 million in 2010, he could actually do better by avoiding free agency. Of course, that could ultimately work to the Yankees’ advantage. If the Blue Jays were to get stuck with Olivo at an inflated price, they’d likely be willing to dump him at a discount. Under such a scenario, the Yankees could get their man for less than they would have in free agency.

The second hurdle would be Olivo’s willingness to enter an uncertain situation. Over the last five seasons, he has pretty much settled into the role of an everyday catcher, so being a part-time player might not be an attractive proposition. It remains to be seen if other teams would be willing to promise him more playing time, but if so, the Yankees would probably have to look elsewhere. The only other similar option appears to be Gerald Laird, who although a better defender than Olivo, is much weaker with the bat and would therefore require a more flexible deployment. With few better options readily available, the Yankees can’t let their pursuit of larger fish allow a minnow like Olivo to slip through the net.

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