Assuming the New York Yankees and Derek Jeter work out their contract impasse, the team will employ Jeter for presumably somewhere at or north of the three-year, $45 million offer they've presented to him. For their money, they'll get Jeter's age-37 through age-39 seasons.
If history is any guide, however, shortstops older than 36 have not provided much in the way of production. Just 25 of them, defining shortstops as a player playing 51 percent of his games there, have given teams 100 games after age 36. (Increase that percentage of games at shortstop to 80 percent, and the list shrinks to 14.)
Hall of Famers populate the list, of course, but the successes are few. Phil Rizzuto's 112 games of 78 OPS+, Luis Aparicio's 367 games at 74 OPS+, and Pee Wee Reese's 309 games at 67 OPS+ aren't uncommon- this kind of production is the norm.
However, a few have risen above such abject play, not to the levels of a $15 million player, but at least holding their own. Here are the top five performances at shortstop by the 37-and-up shortstop crowd:
1) Honus Wagner: 892 games, 124 OPS+. This is the gold standard for what the Yankees could hope for from their captain. Wagner had slowed some from a career that produced a 162 OPS+ through age 36, but still managed well above average production over the final seven seasons of his career. He played no fewer than 92 games at shortstop as late as age 42, before playing primarily first base in his final campaign. Worth noting: the Pirates posted winning records in each of his age 37-39 seasons.
2) Luke Appling: 637 games, 118 OPS+. This is probably the best-case comp for Jeter, as Wagner was a far better player than Jeter through age 36. Appling, meanwhile, posted a 113 OPS+ through age 36, lower than Jeter's 119 to date, then actually improved over his final six seasons. Best of all, he did this while missing his age-37 season thanks to a little thing called World War II. Appling, incidentally, played an astounding 141 games at shortstop at age 42. The White Sox, however, finished sixth.
3) Eddie Joost: 125 games, 101 OPS+. This is where the diminishing returns for a shortstop Jeter's age begin to manifest themselves on the list. Joost became a regular shortstop for the Philadelphia Athletics at age 31 in 1947, and with some pop in his bat and Sandy Alderson-friendly on base percentages, put up an OPS+ of 114 over his next six seasons, comparable to Jeter's past six seasons at 116. But from age 37 through 39, age limited him to a part-time role. He played in a maximum of 55 games in his final three seasons.
4) Billy Jurges: 157 games, 99 OPS+. This isn't any kind of reasonable comparison to Jeter. Jurges posted a career OPS+ of 82. His 37-39 seasons included a season of 124 at third base, followed by two more at exactly 82 while playing shortstop. But what it does tell us is that a huge number of great shortstops failed to age as productively as... Billy Jurges.
5) Mike Bordick: 102 games, 88 OPS+. Bordick may be instructive about Jeter's future, too. Again, Bordick wasn't ever the player Jeter has been, with his career best OPS+ of 111 in a single season falling well below all but one of Jeter's campaigns (unfortunately for Jeter, that being his most recent one). But it was Bordick's glove that kept him around, and 88 OPS+ is right in line with his career mark of 83. That he couldn't find a job following his age-37 season tells us plenty about how far his defense had deteriorated, another problem with shortstops of a certain age.