There is no doubt Derek Jeter is a New York Yankees icon. There is also little doubt left that Jeter’s health has betrayed him time and time again this season as he first tried to come back from a fractured ankle. First, there was the ankle injury itself. Then came the setback with the ankle which delayed his debut until July. Then, Jeter injured his quad. Once he came back from that he injured his calf and went on the DL for the third time this season. Jeter’s future is as cloudy as it ever has been moving forward and the days of him being the regular Yankees shortstop might be behind him.
At 39-years-old, Jeter is one of the oldest players to ever play shortstop in MLB history. Now, it looks like entering his age 40 season in 2014, the Yankees might be best suited to play Jeter more at DH and less in the field moving forward.
There is one huge hurdle to that plan in the form of Jeter himself. Jeter is as competitive as they come and he wants to play shortstop. He wants to hustle down the line. He wants to make that dive in the hole to prevent a base hit. However, Jeter’s best days are clearly behind him.
No one can argue that Jeter is still an effective player when he is on the field or in the lineup. However, that has only happened five times this season as his health is clearly betraying him. When was the last time you heard of a manager telling his captain to not hustle so much? That is where the Yankees are with Jeter right now. The man who set the example with his play is now being told to dial it back.
The Yankees can’t afford to have their leader on the disabled list for most of the season next year like he has been this year. They can’t afford to suffer through another season of hoping certain players come back healthy. They need Jeter to be healthy and the best way to keep him healthy at this point is to play him primarily at DH moving forward.
Convincing Jeter that this is the best course of action is the hard part and dwarfs the search for a replacement at shortstop in terms of difficulty. The Yankees have Eduardo Nunez who has shown improved defense and teases the Yankees with his bat and speed but has yet to put it all together. The Yankees can also look on the trade market with Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez being a potential trade target.
Nunez might be the best option to replace Jeter, at least for next season, in the field. He might not be an upgrade on paper but keeping Jeter healthy is an upgrade enough for the Yankees offense. The Yankees, and Jeter, have to come to an understanding that another year like 2013 is not something that can happen. Jeter’s health must be preserved from now on and the best way to do that is to play the field less and DH more for Jeter.