Let’s say a deal never gets done. The unthinkable happens and Derek Jeter spends the next three years playing in San Francisco or St. Louis or Minnesota. If the Yankees have to fill a hole at shortstop, they have three options.
I’m going to immediately dismiss the idea of Alex Rodriguez shifting back to shortstop. His lower half isn’t what it used to be, he hasn’t played the position in years and moving him only opens a hole at third base. If the Yankees are looking internally, their two options are Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez.
Pena is the safe choice: Exceptional defense, pretty good speed and almost no bat. There’s comfort there, but no excitement. He is what he is. Nunez brings potential: He could be a solid defensive player with a legitimate bottom-of-the-order bat, or he could bust at the big league level. He’s untested, but the Yankees are billing him as a future everyday shortstop. Given the alternative, my guess is Nunez would be the guy.
The free agent market
Cristian Guzman, Orlando Cabrera, Bobby Crosby, Adam Everett and Cesar Izturis have been everyday shortstops in the past, but there’s a solid chance Nunez would out-play all of them. I love Nick Punto’s glove, but he’s only a slight offensive improvement over Pena.
The best bets out of free agency seem to be Miguel Tejada and Juan Uribe, each of whom might be more of a third baseman at this point (though I’d still rather have them at short than A-Rod). Tejada and Jeter had pretty similar offensive years. Uribe showed power, but hit .248 with a .310 OBP.
Make a trade
Feel free to dream about Troy Tulowitzki or Hanley Ramirez or Elvis Andrus, but those simply don’t seem feasible. More likely the Yankees would be looking at a group of Jason Bartlett, Stephen Drew or J.J. Hardy. Bartlett might be a tough sell, because that would involve helping the Rays minor league system. There’s a similar problem getting Marco Scutaro out of Boston.
Drew seems to be the best target. He’s a nice mix of youth and experience, and his name is already floating through trade rumors. Plus Brian Cashman and Kevin Towers have a proven relationship and history of making deals. Truth is, there aren’t many elite shortstops in the game — guys who can both hit and field — and the ones who are both good and young, aren’t easy to get.
Associated Press photo of Nunez