It’s impossible to feel bad for the New York Yankees, who find themselves down 0-2 in the ALCS and headed to Detroit without Derek Jeter, who will remain behind to receive treatment on his broken ankle. They are, after all, the Yankees. And while nobody loves to enjoy the Yankees suffering more than me, there’s no joy in watching one of the top half dozen shortstops in baseball history helped off the field in obvious agony. I don’t feel good about this either, but I’ve grudgingly matured enough to come to grips with the fact that, while Jeter may be overrated in some circles, he’s still fantastic. And it’s always much more fun when he’s on the field for the Bombers.
Now, the loss of Jeter is probably not going to hurt the Yankees much this postseason. With the rest of the club’s offense, with the exception of Raul Ibanez, deciding to take October off, Jeter would have often been a one-man show. Moreover, the chances of Jayson Nix having a hot couple weeks and performing better than Jeter would have is not insignificant, especially since The Captain was playing through a bum ankle before it broke. And in the playoffs, where a couple of hits can be incredibly important, Nix’s timing could end up being better than Jeter’s. As for defense, I’m not sure any of us really know if Nix is going to be a better defender than Jeter, who was back to being pretty subpar defensively this year, but he probably won’t be that much worse.
But as the Yankees continue to pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez, and as the pressure on both the team and the former slugger grows in the offseason, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Jeter’s injury provided the cover the Yankees need to move him off of short, dump Rodriguez on whoever will make them pay the least amount of the money left on A-Rod’s contract, and seek alternatives at short for 2013.
And on the surface, at least, that makes all kinds of sense. Jeter, as we’ve covered, is not a good defensive player, and moving to a less demanding position can only help him. Especially since he’ll undobutedly have at least some reduced range because of the ankle (and the fact that he’ll be 39). It also removes a significant headache and embarrassment for the club, and presumably Rodriguez wouldn’t mind getting out of New York and finishing his career somewhere where he’s only despised for his PED use and questionable photo spreads.
The problem, of course, is that this kind of deal would be highly unprecedented. A-Rod’s owed $114 million over the next five seasons, with bonuses built in for reaching historic statistical milestones. So the Yankees would have to include a crazy amount of money, more than the payroll of at least half the teams in Major League Baseball to convince anybody to take him. And that’s even before we get into the question of what kind of performance we can expect from A-Rod going forward, given his diminished batspeed in the postseason and his rapidly dwindling offensive performance, which has seen his wOBA, OPS+, Total Average, or whatever advanced hitting stat you want to use decrease every year since 2007. They don’t figure to get (much) better going forward, and neither does his defense, given that he’s already 37 years old.
So there are obstacles to the deal. Perhaps more than any other deal has ever had before. But the Yankees have good reason now to be motivated, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Jeter declared the Opening Day 3B one day after the Yankees trade for Jed Lowrie.