At this mornings WFAN event, Breakfast with a Champion, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman let it slip that he thinks that Derek Jeter won’t be able to finish his contract as a shortstop. Instead he sees the Yankees captain finishing out his deal in the outfield.
Fan: what happens with Jeter? Cashman: I’d be surprised if he plays SS for all 4 years. I see him moving to OF.
A statement like that generally gets lots of attention so Cashman responded to it later in the day to some Yankees beat reporters. Here is what he said to NY Daily News reporter Peter Botte:
“This is not an issue and not something we’re considering. It’s certainly not something that should be blown-up viral discussion. Responding to speculation about him moving to 3B and Alex going to DH, in my mind his athletic abilities translate better to OF.
“But that’s not something we’re considering and not something we have talked to Derek about. He’s our shortstop, end of story.”
He elaborated when talking to Bryan Hoch of MLB.com:
Cashman says his opinion is that Jeter could transition better to OF than 3B, but “that’s not an issue we have to deal with right now.”
So here is the deal, Cashman is making a lot of assumptions here. The first is that he’s assuming that Jeter is going to decline defensively to the point where the Yankees have to move him away from shortstop. Considering Jeter’s age this is a fair assumption.
The next is that Cashman is assuming that the Yankees will have a replacement for Jeter. Who could replace him? Eduardo Nunez? Maybe, but as of right now that seems like a longshot. The Yankees have other prospects in their system, but all of the best ones seem like they are at least four years away. This seems like a big assumption on Cashman’s part.
Finally, Cashman is assuming that a guy who will be 37-years-old this season and has never played an inning in the outfield, not in high school, not in the minors, and not in the majors, can successfully transition there. This may be the biggest jump. If we are talking the fourth year of Jeter’s contract, he’ll be 40 and if he’s moving away from short it is probably due to limited range. So are we really to believe that a 40-year-old with no outfield experience and limited range is going to be able to successfully transition there? That is Cashman’s biggest assumption of all.
Realistically it seems possible that Jeter could move off of shortstop during his contract, but it seems more likely that he would move to DH than anywhere else. This is why the Yankees tried to take a hard line with him in negotiations. He doesn’t have a lot of options defensively outside of shortstop and he doesn’t hit enough to be a DH.
If the Yankees have to move Jeter they might be screwed. Cashman should be praying that his Captain works hard enough to stick at shortstop over the life of his contract because other scenarios are unattractive at best.