New York Yankees Position Breakdown: Shortstop
Shortstop: It’s been considered by many to be one of the toughest positions to play on the baseball field, and for the New York Yankees, it could be the toughest position in the lineup to fill in 2014.
Derek Jeter most most of the 2013 season — one which he called a “nightmare” on several occasions — because of constant injuries. After breaking his ankle in the 2012 playoffs, Jeter was never fully able to recover from the injury over the offseason and regular season, eventually going on the DL for good in September because of linger problems in his left ankle.
It’s because of Jeter that the Yankees will have a lot questions to figure out when deciding what to do at shortstop this winter. Jeter, who hit just .190 in only 17 games for the Yanks, has a $8 million player-option that he could pick up, bringing him back to the Bronx for one more season.
Of course, there’s always a chance that de doesn’t pick up the option — but in reality, who’s going to pay a 39-year-old, injury plagued shortstop more than $8 million per a year?
So let’s say that Jeter does pick up the option, and he comes back — hopefully healthy — and is in the lineup on opening day. Is he playing shortstop? Now that’s where the tough questions come into play.
It’s my belief that Jeter won’t be the everyday shortstop in 2014, because no matter how many Gold Gloves he has, having a younger, more versatile player at shortstop on a daily basis is what’s best for the Yankees. Clearly, the injuries are going to be a concern down the road, especially with his ankle, and we saw this season that when he did play in the field, his range was very limited.
But apart from Jeter, the Yankees obviously will have other options, and will need to look for options at shortstop, and some of these players below are the likely candidates.
Eduardo Nunez: Nunez isn’t so much a candidate to play shortstop on a daily basis in 2014 as he is likely to be a bench player next season.He got a chance early on in 2013 to play everyday for the Yankees, and he actually looked good at first, but was never able to fully grasp the position as his own, eventually forced the Yankees to bring in Brendan Ryan late in the season because Nunez had become such a problem defensively.
In all likelihood, Nunez will be a bench player in 2014, coming in late in the games as a pinch-runner, especially is Jeter gets on base late in a game and the Yanks need some extra speed on the bases.
Brendan Ryan: Personally, I liked Ryan when he was with the Yankees for the last couple weeks in September, coming over in a trade with the Seattle Mariners. As much as I care that he can’t hit the ball — he was working with hitting coach Kevin Long to fix the swing, and if the Yankees re-sign him, it’s possible that he could turn things around at the plate — I mostly liked him because he can do one thing very, very well: he plays defense.
Signing Ryan to play shortstop everyday could move Jeter into the DH role, and his offense there, could make up for Ryan not hitting; and Ryan’s great fielding could make up for Jeter’s inability to play the field.
Stephen Drew: I don’t really know what it is, but there’s something about Drew that I think could make him a good fit in the Bronx. He spent the 2013 season with the Boston Red Sox on a one-year deal, hitting .253 with 13 home runs on 67 RBIs. His numbers at the plate are easily better than Ryan’s, and while his defense may not be as fundamentally sound, he was still ranked as one of the leagues top shortstops in 2013 — his .984 fielding percentage ranked him 2nd in the AL.
Drew cost the Red Sox just under $10 million in 2013, and Ryan was being paid just over $5 million, so, obviously, Ryan would be most cost efficient, and it’s possible the Yankees could bring down the price on Ryan to bring him back on a one-year deal.
With or without Jeter in 2014, the Yankees will need to find someone that can play shortstop everyday. It could like be one of the guys listed above, or maybe someone I left off the list. Let me know on Twitter, @GavinEwbank2013, if I missed anyone, or go ahead and tell me what you think about Tuesday’s position breakdown: Third base.