Derek Jeter Retiring After 2014: Yankees Lack Heir Apparent
With Yankees great Derek Jeter retiring after the 2014 season, New York needs an heir apparent. With any luck, the shortstop will surpass 75 career WAR this season, ranking him as the third best shortstop of the modern era behind Cal Ripken Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. Select company indeed. As the Yankees plan for the future, odds are the Bronx Bombers will be trading or signing a new shortstop for 2015 since the organization is hurting for internal options.
With Derek Jeter Retiring, Who Plays Shortstop?
New York’s minor league system didn’t possess a top-20 organizational prospect at the position in 2013. At the Major League level, neither Eduardo Nunez or Brendan Ryan will be seriously considered given Nunez’ defensive shortcomings and Ryan’s all glove approach.
With 12 days until Cuban Aledmys Diaz is eligible to sign a contract, does Jeter’s announcement make the Yankees the leader for his services? Obviously, New York knew Derek Jeter retiring before the fans, but public relations plays an important part of the equation. The Yankees have many millions of die hard followers and not all of them are keen to the fact Jeter isn’t the superstar he once was. With nearly two weeks left before Diaz can sign, the discussion will have turned to potential replacements by then. Diaz signing would allow the Yankees to play him at the upper levels with the hope of a promotion by mid-season to spell Jeter. The timing could not be better.
The 2015 free agent class is headlined by Dodgers Hanley Ramirez, Athletics Jed Lowrie, Orioles J.J. Hardy and Indians Asdrubal Cabrera. Of the four players mentioned, Ramirez has the best chance of signing an extension. Los Angeles lacks internal options (no offense Dee Gordon). He’s a key piece of a World Series contender and the Dodgers are the only team with the ability to match New York dollar for dollar.
While writing this piece, the Dodgers signed Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena to a contract rumored to be in the 25-million dollar range. He becomes the internal option should Hanley Ramirez sign elsewhere. Ramirez’ handicap has been adjusted to reflect the signing.
Hardy and the Orioles have been a hot extension rumor, but it’s difficult to see the fit given Manny Machado has the ability to transition back to shortstop if his knee proves sound. Why commit to an aging shortstop when Matt Wieters and Chris Davis will hit free agency after the 2015 season? Plus, Jonathan Schoop isn’t far away and will surface as a second or third baseman. Hardy should be available.
Indians prospect Francisco Lindor is the best defensive shortstop in minor league baseball and has a plus hit tool to boot. Barring injury, he’ll be Cleveland’s shortstop in 2015 and beyond. This leaves Cabrera as the easiest sign of the bunch, but would the Yankees have any interest?
Lowrie will be pushed by Addison Russell, one of the ten best prospects in all of baseball. Of position prospects yet to play at the upper levels, Russell is the player most likely to reach the Major Leagues in 2014 not named Byron Buxton. Lowrie should be available, although a scenario where Russell or Lowrie slides to second base next season isn’t out of the question.
Stephen Drew may available considering he’s still a free agent. Of course the former Red Sox and Diamondbacks shortstop will need to sign a one year pact this season and hit free agency again. After a strong and relatively healthy 2013, it’s difficult to envision his repeating that level of production again given his injury history.
If handicapping the field, my pick for the next Yankees shortstop would look something like this;
A. Diaz – 3:1
J. Hardy – 5:1
H. Ramirez –
J. Lowrie – 10:1
S. Drew – 12:1
A. Cabrera – 15:1
Other – 20:1
The Yankees are in an unfortunate spot of having a thin system without the prospects to trade for an impact player at the position. Like the 2013 off-season, they’ll need to spend in free agency, or else risk a major drop in production at shortstop. With Derek Jeter retiring as one of the best shortstops in history, the organization will feel compelled replace him with a star caliber player. The New York fan base doesn’t really allow for a prospect to be brought along slowly.
12 Feb 2014 / Mike Newman /
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