We have all read the reports. The New York Yankees are offering this, Derek Jeter is asking for this. Who really knows what to believe? Regardless of the years and dollar figures being thrown around by the media, I have decided to take it upon myself to make an attempt at asking a question many people may be asking: What will the Yankees do without Jeter?
We all know that the Yankees were considered finalists to sign Cuban Adeiny Hechavarria before he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. Why did Hechavarria not sign with the Yankees? He did not want to be stuck behind Jeter in the Yankees’ depth chart.
Looking internally, the Yankees would appear to have very little in the way of prospects who could step in for 2011 or even beyond that. Ramiro Peña logged almost 100 innings at shortstop this season, but his .227/.258/.247 slash line is hardly impressive.
How about the free agent market? There are certainly some better options here. Guys like Orlando Cabrera, Cristian Guzman, Cesar Izturis and Edgar Renteria could be options for the Yankees.
Cabrera has never been anything special with the bat, but has two Gold Glove awards to his credit. He spent the 2010 season with the Cincinnati Reds and helped them get to the playoffs for the first time in years while hitting .263/.303/.354 on a $2.27-million salary. Defensively, Cabrera would be an upgrade over Jeter but offensively, the Yankees would take a hit.
After playing his entire career at shortstop, the Washington Nationals moved Guzman to second base this season before shipping him off to the Texas Rangers, who also played the 34-year old Guzman primarily at second base. Throughout his career, Guzman has never quite been a force with the glove, making at least 20 errors in a season four times throughout his eleven year career. Offensively, his numbers are trailing off as well. The man that once stole 28 bases in a season while hitting 20 triples managed just 4 of each this season while hitting .266/.311/.337 for the Nationals and Rangers. Overall, Guzman would definitely be a downgrade from Jeter, but could cost the Yankees far less.
In ten seasons, Izturis has spent time with six different teams. A former Gold Glove winner, there are absolutely no questions about his defence. The part that may worry some is his lack of offence. A career .256/.296/.323 hitter, Izturis saw a drop in those numbers this season with the Baltimore Orioles. While being an upgrade over Jeter defensively, the lost offence may be too much to pursue Izturis.
Renteria is fresh off a 2010 season that saw him win the World Series MVP and then see the Giants decline to pick up his $10.5-million option for the 2011 season and decline to offer him arbitration. He is still above average as a shortstop, and his offensive numbers from this season were very comparable to Jeter’s. Essentially, Renteria may be the best option for the Yankees if they look to fill a void left by Jeter via the free agent market.
What about replacing Jeter via trade?
J.J. Hardy immediately stands out as a possibility. Regarded by some as a potential non-tender candidate, the shortstop may no longer fit into the Minnesota Twins’ plans after the organization won the bidding for Japanese shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka. That said, the Yankees could potentially wait to see if the Twins do in fact offer arbitration and if not, he could be obtained without giving up anything of value. A career .263/.323/.423 hitter, Hardy would certainly not be an offensive upgrade over Jeter. Though, if he can regain his power stroke, he would certainly be a welcome presence in the lineup. While Hardy has never won a Gold Glove award, his defence is regarded as above average and certainly has more range than the 36-year old Jeter.
One final option for the Yankees could be Stephen Drew of the Arizona Diamondbacks. At 27, Drew hit .278/.352/.458 for the D’backs in 2010 while swatting 15 homers and swiping 10 bags in 151 games. He even played above average defence and is locked into a contract that will pay him $31.5-million over the next four seasons. If the reports of the Yankees offering Jeter $45-million over three years are correct, Drew could save the team some money while potentially being a better option than Mr. November himself. That said, he would probably cost the Yankees quite a bit to acquire.
Overall, the Yankees would probably be best to keep Jeter provided his contract demands do not seem too outrageous. But there has to be a line drawn. As soon as his demands cross that line, it could become beneficial for the Yankees to look elsewhere and find a replacement for their long-time captain and shortstop. Guys like Renteria and Drew would be good replacements for Jeter, but would certainly not be the same.