For a long time, Derek Jeter has been overrated on the defensive side of the ball, according to basically every reliable defensive metric there is. I have stated many times how I feel about Jeter; Mentally as aware as anyone who has played the game (It seems anyway), plays the game the right way, a good hitter, who has always been a great hitting SS. When it is all said and done, even with his lack of range, he will be one of the five best SS’s to ever play the game, and a no doubt Hall of Famer. So do not take this as an attack on Jeter. But since he is now 34 years of age, and has declined even more so with the glove since his younger days, isn’t it about time to make the transition? They need a replacement for Jeter, that is obvious. So without having someone to take over the position, this really isn’t much of a discussion. But they could very well look into a stop-gap: Adam Everett, someone else, etc. Someone who could give them a great glove, but obviously in Everett’s case, would be a lousy hitter.
But there is a fact, the FACT is that the Yankees were 25th in DefensiveEfficiency this season, which could be a reason why they only won 89 games. Which is still pretty good, but not up to what they are accustomed to. Improving the defense, would improve the team. Simple. But not so simple in how they would appoach doing this. As for why this season would be a good season for Jeter to make the transition? Because if the Yankees want to part ways with Giambi, it will cost them $5 million to do so. And I am sure that they want to get out of that contract, even if Giambi DID have a solid 2008 (Far from what one would for $22 million however). Abreu will also leave if the Yankees do not give him the money. I agree with what Keith Law said: If Abreu will accept a two-year contract, or even better a one-year deal, then ink it up. But if he wants any more than that, then it is probably wise to let him seek out another team. Abreu is 34 also, which would be the reasoning for this. He is still a solid player, but how good will he be when he is 37?
So there are two positions that the Yankees could move Jeter to, if they choose to do so. First base, which is something Jeter should be able to handle relatively easy. Now a lot depends on whether or not they make a play on Teixera, and whether or not this is where Posada will need to play. If they want Tex bad enough, then they can give him the most money. In this case, something else would need to be done with Jeter, or of course just leave him at SS if they wish.
Right Field is the other option for Jeter. I don’t know how well this transition would go though. Jeter has always shown to handle balls in the air well enough. But the outfield is a different story. I would think he would be able to handle it, but of course am not totally sure of it. Third base would be another option, but one of the greatest talents ever resides there, so that is out (unless of course they switched positions, which probably isn’t likely or realistic at this point).
According to THT’s RevisedZoneRating, Jeter actually improved a lot at the position I am saying he should move from. But it is probably somewhat of a fluke, or this stat just doesn’t have much weight. It is, unfortunately, the only defensive metric I have available to me right now until the 2009 version of “The Fielding Bible” is released. I have a hard time believing that Jeter will be better than 25th or so among all SS’s once it comes out though.
Which leads me to something else, for all the criticism the stat guys, including myself, give to Derek Jeter’s glove-work, he still has the ability to field the position. Eventually, he will not. Which is why the move will be made sometime anyway. But there are always going to be poor fielding defenders with respect to their given position. So it isn’t a necessity that Jeter be shifted somewhere else on the diamond. And after 2009, Damon and Matsui come off the books, so there will be another position open for Jeter in Left. Obviously, a lot of the acquisitions that the Yankees will make in the upcoming offseason, will dictate what they can do with Jeter. But if they sign, say, Derek Lowe, then they will have two sinkerball pitchers anchoring the front end of the rotation. And with the poor team defense that the Yankees played this season, it seems like making this move could benefit them.