Derek Jeter is one of the greatest baseball players to ever live. He has the well-earned pride to match that distinction.
Derek Jeter expects to play shortstop every day for the New York Yankees in 2014 at age 39 (he turns 40 in June).
With 2013 a lost season, let’s look at 2012 for a moment. Jeter played 159 games that season. 135 of those games came at shortstop. According to FanGraphs, he cost the Yankees 18 runs that season with his defense (-18 DRS, or defensive runs saved).
That’s actually not even his worst season defensively. 2007, a season much closer to his prime, saw Jeter put up an abominable -18 UZR as he cost the Yankees 24 runs on defense (-24 DRS). Even with some better seasons in between, the Hall of Famer is a liability out there at this point (and you could argue he has been for many years).
The Yankees should have confronted this reality a long time ago, but it looks like it might take a couple serious injuries for them to finally deal with what is admittedly an awkward situation. That’s what Buster Olney wrote this morning on ESPN (insider required), saying that both the Yankees and Jeter need to be open-minded and ready to consider alternate plans if the Captain struggles out there (which he likely will).
The Yankees signed Brendan Ryan earlier this off-season for some insurance at SS. This whole scenario also explains why they should seriously consider signing Stephen Drew, even if it is under the guise of being the team’s third baseman, so that they don’t get caught without a plan in the midst of a playoff race. Olney is right that the team needs to have the resources, and the onions, to switch Jeter from shortstop if they want to contend in 2014.