Yankees Off-Season Outlook: Big Shoes To Fill For Jeter, But How Do They?
By Nicholas Delahanty (MLB Reports Writer) Follow @Nick_Delahanty
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The 2015 off-season is very important for the New York Yankees, as they have a lot of major questions surrounding their current roster. With an aging roster and the return of recently reinstated Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees have some holes to fix, but those issues might not be their biggest concern this off-season.
We all knew the time would come, but no one was ready to start talking about how the Yankees would replace Derek Jeter. Jeter leaves very big shoes to fill in the Bronx, and the Yankees must try their best to find a successor who can not only handle the pressures of New York, but also can step up and produce.
Filling the void might be difficult at first, as past experiences have shown that Yankee fans are very impatient when it comes to replacing some of the best to wear the Yankee pinstripes. The only legitimate shortstop on the roster, Brendan Ryan, won’t be the Yankees everyday shortstop in 2015, so the Bronx Bombers must go through the trade market or free agency to fill a void that right now is larger than life.
When Don Mattingly retired after the 1995 season, the Yankees were in a position where they had to find an impact player to replace Donnie Baseball. This led them to make a trade that would greatly help them through their dominance during the last 1990s, as they would receive Tino Martinez and Jeff Nelson in a trade with the Seattle Mariners for Sterling Hitchcock and Russ Davis. The Yankees definitely won that trade, but it wasn’t a match made in heaven right away.
Martinez, who was a major reason why the Mariners were so successful in his tenure, struggled badly during the beginning of the 1996 season, which led Yankee fans to start turning on the then 28-year-old. The pressures of replacing a true Yankee great really got to Martinez, who admits in many different interviews that he was trying to do too much.
As the Yankees expected, Martinez turned it around, and was able to win the hearts of many Yankee fans. Four World Series titles speaks volumes, but it was the way that Martinez handled himself on the field that helped Yankee fans get past missing Donnie Baseball. This could be a very similar situation as the Yankees try to replace Jeter, and it could get very ugly if the heir to the throne struggles early on during the 2015 campaign.
There are many options that could be available through trade and free agency, but not all of the names the Yankee fans hope to hear will be logical options for the Bronx Bombers.
Trade Market: Big Names, Small Possibilities
As the shortstop free agent market is pretty weak, the Yankees might try to lure away one of the big name shortstops from another club via trade. Each one of the trade candidates has a very bright upside and could fit nicely in the Bronx, but some of the negatives that come along with these players might be enough to scare the Yankees.
Possible Trade Candidates:
Troy Tulowitzki (Rockies) – When discussing possible replacements for Jeter, Tulowitzki’s name comes up on a lot of people’s wish lists. When healthy, the 30-year-old shortstop is arguably the best in all of baseball, as his ability to hit for power is very rare for his position. It’s also important to note that Tulowitzki wears the #2 in honor of his childhood hero, and has noted in the past that he would love to play for the Bronx Bombers.
Tulo starts a 6 YR/118 MM contract this season, which also holds a $15 MM club option for the 2021 season. The contract numbers seem right for a player of his stature, but the injury issues really scare away teams from parting with their best prospects. His rare nagging injuries could be the main reason why the Yankees look elsewhere, as they are afraid of getting stuck with his large contract, fearing that the injuries will continue, ultimately leading to a lack of production.
Another main issue would be who would the Yankees actually give up for Tulowitzki. Unlike the Mets, the Yankees don’t have a surplus of young pitching to give away, heck, right now they aren’t even sure if they have 5 starters to make up a rotation. A deal for Tulo would most likely have to involve the Yankees young star in Dellin Betances, and it appears unlikely that they are willing to part with the 26-year-old, as he might become their closer in the near future.
Elvis Andrus (Rangers) – Andrus is another interesting player that the Yankees might take a look at to fill their shortstop void. The 26-year-old is signed until 2022 with a 8 YR/ 118 MM contract that includes a vesting option in 2023 based on plate appearances.
With 21-year-old Jurickson Profar waiting to take over the position for the Rangers, the team might try to trade some guys that hold bigger contracts. That’s no knock to Andrus, who has played in 140+ games in all six of his seasons with the Rangers.
Again, the issue with trading for Andrus would be the money involved. It appears as if the Rangers are going to try to package another bad contract (such as Shin-Soo Choo) with Andrus, as the team tries to not only get prospects for their good talent, but also dump salary in the process. The Yankees most likely have the prospects to get a deal for Andrus done, but probably aren’t in a position where they want to take on more salary cap to fill a need.
Starlin Castro (Cubs)- The Cubs are in an interesting predicament here, as they have a surplus of young infielders and not enough spots for all of them. With the recent acquisition of 2B Tommy La Stella, the Cubs might be in a spot to move one or two of their young infield talents in order to add depth to other positions.
After a rough 2013 season, Castro really had a bounce back season in 2014, posting a .292 BA in 134 games. The Cubs might be hesitant to trade away the 24-year-old, as his contract is very club friendly (signed until 2019 with a team option for 2020).
In order to obtain Castro in a trade, the price tag will probably be a high one, as the Cubs look to bring in more young talent to coincide with what they already have (most likely looking for young pitching). Although the Yankees have some young talent, it appears very unlikely that they will be able to outbid a team with better prospects (especially on the pitching side).
Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) – If the Yankees can’t get Castro from the Cubs, they might turn to the South side of Chicago, as the White Sox have a pretty good shortstop option in Alexei Ramirez. Ramirez is a guy that would be under club control for at least a year (two if his option is exercised in 2016), so the Yankees might be able to get Ramirez for a lower price tag in comparison to other top tier trade candidates.
However, George A. King III reported in the NY Post this week that the Yankees don’t seem to have any interest in either Ramirez of Andrus as of this moment, but notes that things can change before Opening Day. The White Sox might look to trade the 33-year-old before he can hit the free agent market, as there could be a number of teams interested in trading for Ramirez’s services.
Jose Iglesias (Tigers) – Iglesias would provide a huge upgrade defensively for the Yankees. As a 24-year-old who is not set to hit arbitration until 2016, Iglesias is a guy who can be under club control for a long time, something that definitely could benefit the Bronx Bombers.
Iglesias, who finished second in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2013, is coming off a season where he suffered stress fractures in both legs, resulting in him missing the entire 2014 campaign. He’s a guy who the Tigers are willing to part with at the right price, but the main question clubs ask is whether or not this young talent will be able to stay healthy.
Didi Gregorius (Diamondbacks) – Gregorius is known as a defensive wizard, and looks like the odd man out in Arizona (With Chris Owings looking like the future shortstop). It’s also likely that the Diamondbacks will hold on to Owings, especially being that his valued will be lowered as he’s coming off shoulder surgery. At this point, Gregorius could get the better package back for the Diamondbacks.
The Yankees and Diamondbacks matched up on two trades last season, one which sent Brandon McCarthy to New York for Vidal Nuno, while the other sent Martin Prado to the Bronx for power-hitting catcher Peter O’Brien, so it could be possible that these two teams match up once again to make a deal.
The problem with Gregorius is that you’re not going to get much offensively from the 24-year-old. If the Yankees want a guy that will more offensively balanced from the position, it is unlikely they will part with prospects in order to trade for Gregorius.
There are plenty of options through the trade market, but it doesn’t appear right now that the Yankees will go this route to fill their need at shortstop. Of course, things definitely can change, but with the lack of good young starting pitching prospects along with the team trying to stay under the luxury tax, the most likely solution will come from the free agent market.
Free Agents: Not How The Yankees Drew It Up
At this point,it is unclear whether or not GM Brian Cashman and crew feel that they can fill their need their need for a shortstop through the guys that are on the free agent market. Although there is not much star-power on the market in regards to shortstops, there are players that could help fill the void in both long and short term capabilities.
Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers) – Ramirez is the “big fish” of this free agent market, and he should demand a high pay day from one of his potential suitors. His willingness to play other positions (such as 3B and OF) are also intriguing to a team like the Yankees, who need to add more versatility to their roster.
Although Ramirez would probably be a nice fit, the 30-year-old will most likely not end up in pinstripes. As the Yankees try to stay under the luxury tax, signing Ramirez to a huge contract wouldn’t help that goal, so the lack of interest that has been shown so far will probably stick throughout the off-season.
Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians and Nationals) – Cabrera was traded mid-season to the Nationals and was shifted over to second base for the stretch run. Numerous teams will bid for his services, especially being that there will be no draft pick compensation for the team who gets him to sign on the dotted line.
Even though Cabrera has spent the majority of his career as a shortstop, it is very likely that he will be signed by a team that could use his services at second base. If the Yankees do choose to pursue him, his switch hitting bat could be a nice asset to the Yankees lineup, but there hasn’t been much buzz surrounding the Bronx Bombers targeting him, as it appears his best suitors want him to strictly make a permanent move to second base.
Stephen Drew (Red Sox and Yankees) – Drew was one of the players that was greatly affected by receiving a qualifying offer from the Red Sox after the 2013 season. After waiting to re-sign with the Red Sox in May, Drew struggled mightily in 2014, hitting .162 during his 85 games. The Yankees traded for him at the mid-season point, but Drew wasn’t able to turn his 2014 campaign around.
Even though Yankee fans probably don’t want to hear this, it seems as if Drew is the most likely candidate to be the Yankees Opening Day shortstop. The Yankees have interest in bringing Drew back, as they hope that having a full Spring Training under his belt in order to get ready for the season will help him turn things around. If they can get him back to form, he could be a low-risk, high reward type of player for the Yankees.
Jed Lowrie (Athletics) – Lowrie is another shortstop that could draw interest from plenty of Major League teams, as he has the versatility to play not only shortstop, but second and third base as well. The 30-year-old spent the past two seasons in Oakland, having his best season in 2013 when he posted a .290 BA in 154 games.
Although there hasn’t been much buzz around the Yankees pursuing this option, Lowrie could be a really nice fit in New York. As a switch hitter, Lowrie has shown flashes of being able to hit the ball out of the ballpark, and with a short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, it could really play in Lowrie’s favor. Even though it probably is a long shot, Lowrie could be a good fit at the right price.
Where Do The Yankees Go From Here?
Pinstripe Alley posted the graphic posted above, and it truly shows how hard it is to find a franchise shortstop. Jeter is definitely a once in a lifetime shortstop, and he will be very hard to replace.
However, the Yankees need to move on, and must make the best move for the franchise to bring in the best player possible that will help the team succeed in 2015 and beyond.
The Yankees do have a lot of work to do this off-season, as their roster is full of question marks. As the Bronx Bombers try to resign guys such as Chase Headley and Brandon McCarthy and figure out what they are going to do in regards to recently reinstated Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees have a lot of question marks as of right now, but if they can find the right fit to take over at shortstop, it could lead them in the right direction in hopes of ending their playoff drought in 2015.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***
A big thanks goes out to our Featured Writer Nicholas Delahanty for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a current student at Felician College, studying Broadcast Journalism with a minor in English.
He served as the Broadcast and Media Relations Intern for the New Jersey Jackals in 2013, and also hosts a radio show on WRFC Felician College Radio Station called ‘Around the Bases.’
Nicholas recently started working as a broadcaster for Felician College Basketball games, and is a student-writer for the college’s monthly magazine.
He volunteers as a baseball and basketball coach in Garfield, New Jersey, and also volunteers as the announcer for the town’s Junior Boilermaker Football program.
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Posted on November 21, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions, MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged 2015 Offseason, @nick_delahanty on twitter, alexi ramirez, arizona diamondbacks, asdrubal cabrera, boston red sox, Brendan Ryan, chase headley, chicago cubs, chicago white sox, Chuck Booth, cleveland indians, dellin betances, derek jeter, detroit tigers, didi gregorius, don mattingly, elvis andrus, Felician College, free agents, George A. King III, hanley ramirez, jed lowrie, Jeff Nelson, Jose Iglesias, la dodgers, luxury tax, martin prado, mlb offseason, mlb reports, MLB Rumors, new york mets, new york yankees, nick delahanty, NY Post, oakland athletics, opening day, Peter O'Brien, Pinstripe Alley, Russ Davis, shortstop, starlin castro, stephen drew, Sterling Hitchcock, tino martinez, troy tulowitzki, Tulo, Vidal Nuno, washington nationals, yankees. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.