Over the off season, it seems as if a disproportionate amount of attention has been paid to Derek Jeter’s impending free agency. Over at ESPN.com, Buster Olney is the latest to weigh in with his typical “anonymous talent evaluator” approach to research. Throughout the article, Olney puts forth a series of scouts and GMs who confidently suggest that Jeter should be moved to 2B or LF or even RF. Reading some of the rational really makes you wonder about the teams for which these guys work. One “Talent evaluator” concluded that the best idea would be to trade Cano (a young, productive 2B) and simply move Jeter over to fill the vacancy. This scout doesn’t explain why Jeter will so easily adapt to 2B (a position that is still high on the defensive spectrum), or even more importantly, how the Yankees will fill the void in the lineup left by the departure of Cano. There is more of the same “logic” throughout the piece.
Interestingly, but perhaps not ironic, however, the one man who actually put his name to his opinion does make some sense. JP Ricciardi, stated that he “wouldn’t be ready to put him at another position. In fact, I could see him playing shortstop another five years…Jeter’s a great athlete, he’s in great shape, and he can stay there. Now, if he has a major injury with his legs that changes the equation.”
Amid all the clamor to move Jeter, it seems as if the most logical solution is being overlooked…keep him at SS. Considering the contract that Jeter is going to sign, the Yankees are going to need him to play a premium position to justify a return. Therefore, it would make no sense for the Yankees to go out of their way to create a $20mn left fielder. What’s more, shifting Jeter will then require the team to find another SS. With no such prospect in the pipeline, that could force the Yankees into the same SS wading pool that Boston has been occupying: we’re talking Scutaro, Gonzalez, Green, Renteria, etc.
What’s more, this “analysis” ignores that Jeter had one of his better defensive seasons in 2009. Can we at least see if he maintains that in 2010 before deciding on his next position. Sure, the list of 40-year old short stops is, well, short, but Jeter isn’t exactly your typical player.
One more interesting comment from the Olney article was from Buster himself. He states:
“As Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio discovered firsthand, generations of Yankees executives have shared a common approach when it comes to dealing with older players: They will make changes when success of the team is at stake. Through their history, they have valued wins for the franchise over nostalgia.”
The last time I checked, Colonel Jacob Ruppert, Dan Topping, Del Webb and Larry MacPhail didn’t hold any interests in the team. Throughout his tenure, George Steinbrenner has showed a certain amount of sentimentality, most recently manifested by the handling of Don Mattingly and Bernie Williams, two players who retired as lifelong pinstripes, but may have moved on earlier if with another organization (like Boston…as John Sterling was telling Fisk, Lynn, Evans, Boggs, Clemens, Vaughn, Nomar, Pedro, etc. just the other day!). Hal and Hank may be a little more bottom line than their dad, but I think the organization will treat Jeter with the respect that he is due.