TAMPA, Fla. -- The Yankees have been saying for months that they plan on having Derek Jeter as their starting shortstop, so their 2014 blueprint wasn't affected by Wednesday's announcement that this season will be the captain's last.
There was nothing in Jeter's actions to disrupt that. On a day that
was anything but normal, Jeter's on-field activity was pretty mundane:
taking four rounds of batting practice at the team's Minor League
complex, fielding 14 ground balls in the grass and 28 on the dirt.
But it is only natural to wonder, as Jeter looks ahead to a future in
which he can "finally stop the chase and take in the world," how the
Yankees plan on filling the void some 12 months from now when they open
their first Spring Training without the shortstop in two decades.
is an easy name to toss out, still floating on the free-agent market
and in need of a landing spot. He has often been mentioned by outside
voices as a fit for the Yankees, particularly if he is willing to play
positions other than shortstop.
That speculation hasn't been coming from team officials, who have
continued to send smoke signals that the club maxed out its budget with
the Masahiro Tanaka signing and will not be adding any more significant names before the beginning of camp.
Drew was given a qualifying offer by the Red Sox, valued at one year
and $14.1 million, so any team signing him would have to surrender a
Draft pick. That's less of an issue to the Yankees than the fact that
their budget has already swelled past $200 million, and they were icy to
the idea of Drew even before Tanaka joined the fray.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said this week that despite
legitimate question marks at several positions, including all four
infield spots, he believes that the Yankees already have the pieces of a
winning roster heading to camp.
"Nobody is going to point out more issues than you guys,"
Steinbrenner said. "In this day and age, the way things are, every team
has issues. We just have to work through them. Maybe we don't have the
resources down below [at the Minor League level] that we need to deal
with some of the issues; maybe we do.
"We'll see what we have in March here. We're going to continue to
deal with them every way we can. We certainly have a better team this
year, and I'm excited about it. I think we've got a championship-caliber
team. We just need to stay healthy. That's going to be key, as it is
for any team."
Behind Jeter, Brendan Ryan
signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Yankees in early December,
so at least they can count on having the defensive whiz waiting in the
wings after Jeter hangs it up.
Ryan also offers the Yankees insurance in case Jeter goes out with
another "nightmare" season, but the career .237 hitter doesn't offer
anything close to the offensive production that the Yankees are
accustomed to receiving when Jeter is healthy.
The Yankees also have Eduardo Nunez
competing for a job this spring, though he may see the majority of his
playing time as the right-handed-hitting half of a third-base platoon
with the lefty-swinging Kelly Johnson.
Nunez was developed as a shortstop and had a crack at the everyday
job last year, starting 69 games at the position. But he seems to have
fallen out of favor somewhat, batting just .260 for the season with
three homers, 28 RBIs and a .307 on-base percentage.
For the purposes of 2015, there doesn't appear to be much help coming
through the Minor League pipeline; the Yankees didn't have a shortstop
listed among their Top 20 prospects last year, as rated by MLB.com.
Addison Maruszak and Cito Culver aren't projected as everyday options in
the big leagues.
There's a very real chance that the player who eventually inherits
the title of Yankees shortstop from Jeter may not be employed by the
organization at this moment. The potential 2015 free-agent class
includes shortstops J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie, Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins. And for 2014?
"We're open-minded to affordable options that might be available via
trade," Cashman said. "But realistically, the answers that we will have
are going to come with what's on our current roster here or at
[Triple-A] Scranton and develop over the course of Spring Training."