With a lot of speculation lately regarding Derek Jeter‘s next contract, I got to thinking: how many more years will the “core 4″ (Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera) play? I know – it’s hard to imagine the Yankees without those guys but the day will come.
(Please note – I realized after I had already started writing this that Joel Sherman had something up in the Post about replacing the 4. I’m posting this anyways.)
Jeter had a resurgence last season at age 35. While this resurgence certainly happened at the plate (highest OPS+ since 2006), it more importantly happened in the field (+6 UZR). Jeter has always been a very good hitting shortstop, but his fielding, particularly in recent years, has been below average. Many speculated that Jeter would perhaps have to move off of shortstop (which of course would really diminishes his value). If Jeter can prove that 2009 was not a fluke and continue to play at least average defense, I would think the over/under on him at shortstop would be 4 more seasons after this one, so 5 in total. I expect that to be the case.
Final Season: 2014
Posada has two more years left on his current deal, and despite his less than stellar defense, Posada is still a monster at the plate as far as catchers go. Clearly, Posada will honor his contract and play at least 2 more seasons. My guess would be he’ll reup for one more year after that, even if it’s just as a part-time catcher and DH. Remember, Posada might have the best batting eye out of any player on the team and that is a skill that shouldn’t diminish with age.
Final Season: 2012
Pettitte has talked about retiring for quite some time and seems content to go year by year. So at the beginning of the season, we generally tend not to think of Pettitte when projecting the rotation for the following year. However, if Pettitte stays healthy, I don’t know that this will be his last season. A lot of it could depend upon the development of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, which will dictate how much the Yankees need Pettitte. My guess is Andy comes back for one more season after this one. Though to be honest, I wouldn’t completely rule out him playing longer, especially if 300 wins gets within reach.
Final Season: 2011
This is the toughest call of the group. Rivera is nearing 40 and, as such, should be close to retirement. However, this past season showed us that Rivera doesn’t need to throw all that hard to be successful. In the postseason, Rivera was dealing with a ribcage strain and his cutter was often sitting at 88-89 MPH. Yet Rivera was still dominant. As long as he’s healthy, you’d think Mo will be able to still perform at a high level for the next few years, since his performance isn’t necessarily tied to his velocity anymore. My guess is he signs a 2-year deal after this season, which would mean he’d be playing at least until he’s 42. Obviously, I’m rooting for him to play until he’s 50, but I’m trying to temper my optimism.
Final Season: 2012