5 time champion, 4th member of the core four, 3 top 3 MVP seasons, 2 is his jersey number, and 1 legend.
On Wednesday February 12, 2014, Derek Jeter announced on his Facebook page that he would retire after the 2014 season. Jeter’s impact will be felt on and off the field when he leaves the team after the season. Jeter is the 11th captain of the New York Yankees and will be a future Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 6 years.
Jeter’s Legacy on the Field:
This season, Jeter will play in his 20th season and this will be his 19th season as the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. Jeter is part of the new breed of shortstops that are bigger and have more offensive skills than the shortstops that played before the 1970s. When Jeter entered the league, he was compared to Nomar Garciaparra, who retired a long time ago, and Alex Rodriguez, who switched positions when he came to the Yankees. While Jeter never had the power like Ripken or Rodriguez, he had the ability to score runs, get on base, and have a high batting average. Although Jeter will be remembered for his intangibles and leadership skills, he is arguably the best shortstop since Honus Wagner, who retired in 1917.
Derek has a career batting average of .312 and an on base percentage of .381, which are impressive numbers from a position that normally does not provide offensive output. During his career, Derek has batted over .300 twelve times, scored 100 runs thirteen times, accumulated over 200 hits eight times (including leading the league twice), and stole more than 20 bases eight times. In terms of offensive production, Jeter has the highest offensive WAR of any shortstop in the modern era, which includes Cal Ripken, who many believe is the best offensive shortstop. Although Jeter does not have great power like Ripken, he hit over 250 home runs and has slugged .446 during his 19 years. Derek has the 10th most hits in MLB history and the most among active players with 3,316 hits. If Jeter can collect 119 hits, he will move into 6th place. If he can garner 198, which will be difficult and probably unlikely, Jeter can pass Tris Speaker for 5th place on the all time list. Jeter is currently ranked 12th in runs scored, but has the chance to move into the 9th spot, if he can score 73 runs during the season.
Although Jeter’s offense has made him one of the best shortstops in MLB history, many people have questioned his defensive ability. Throughout Jeter’s career, many scouts and people in baseball have criticized his range and true value on defense. The defensive metrics do not favor Jeter. His Defensive WAR, -9.2, is the reason why he does not rate well compared to other great shortstops in MLB history. Jeter has posted a positive dWAR only 3 times during his career. Although Jeter does not have great range, he is one of the most sure handed shortstops in the league. Many managers and executives have noted that they would not want any other player, but Derek Jeter to make a play with 2 outs in the ninth. Although Gold Gloves have lost their value because many feel the selections are a popularity contest, he has won 5 Gold Gloves during his illustrious career.
While the regular season has made Derek Jeter one of the best players in history, his postseason career has made him a legend and an immortal. Jeter has played nearly an entire season, 158 games, in his postseason career. Remarkably, Jeter’s postseason stats are similar to his regular season stats, which is rare for a great player. Jeter has batted .308 with 20 home runs, 61 RBI, 18 stolen bases, 200 hits, 111 runs, and played in 16 of the last 18 playoffs with the Yankees. He has also played in the most playoff games, which has allowed him to record the most at-bats, plate appearances, runs scored, hits, total bases, doubles, triples, and singles. Jeter is additionally top five in walks, RBI, and home runs. Along with his great numbers, Jeter has had many great moments, the flip play, home run against the Diamondbacks, and home run against the Orioles. These moments validated his nickname as Mr. November and Captain Clutch. If the Yankees meet expectations, he could have a chance to improve his numbers and possibly reach his 6th championship before he retires from the game.
Legacy off the Field:
Although Jeter has been at the center of attention since he won the Rookie of the Year and led the Yankees to their first title in 18 years in 1996, he has always said the right things and has never made a major mistake like others in the past. In today’s world with constant media involvement, it is likely we will never see another superstar succeed as much on the field while maintaing a perfect image off the field. As many have noted, Jeter is the perfect captain for the Yankees because he has the ability to absorb all the pressure while maintaining a stoic complexion. Many players look up to Jeter during difficult situation because they know he will not allow his nerves to overcome himself and affect his play on the field. Unlike Alex Rodriguez, who is a superior player and has more talent, Derek has the rare ability to slow down the speed of the game and perform at the highest and most pressure filled situations. Derek has been able to keep his personal life away from the media, which limits the amount of distractions on the team and him. This talent helps explain his crazy .321 average and .384 on base percentage in World Series play. Jeter has a great work ethic which has made him a better player and has inspired his fellow teammates to improve and exceed their expectations. It is interesting that Derek announced his big news on Facebook because many people didn’t even know he had a Facebook page since he rarely posts on Facebook. Although Derek will always be remembered for his skills and talent, he will mostly be remembered as a great person and teammate that helped his teammates win and succeed.
During Jeter’s great career, he has won numerous individual and team accolades, which adds to his legend. Derek Jeter broke out in his first full season when he hit .314 with 104 runs, 183 hits and won the Rookie of the Year in 1996. Although Jeter will likely never win an MVP, he has finished in the top-3 3 times and top-10 8 times. Derek has competed in 13 All-Star Games and was the first Yankee to win the All-Star Game MVP in 2000. He became the first player ever to win the All-Star Game MVP and the World Series MVP in the same season in 2000. During his career, Jeter has won 5 Silver Slugger Awards at shortstop and won 2 Hank Aaron Awards in 2006 and 2009.
Although the future for Jeter looks bright outside of baseball because he is well known and beloved by many, the Yankees may have a difficult time finding his replacement. Currently, the Yankees do not have any viable options on their current roster or in the minor leagues. Eduardo Nunez and Branden Ryan are no full time shortstops and cannot be the shortstop to replace the great Derek Jeter. In the minors, the Yankees tried to replace Derek by drafting CJ Henry and Cito Culver, but neither have shown the ability to make the Yankees’ roster in the future. The Yankees will need to find Jeter’s replacement outside the organization, if they want to continue winning and competing for Division Titles and World Series Championships.
If the Yankees want to continue spending money and draft picks this year, they could sign Stephen Drew to a long term deal. Drew is a competent shortstop who batted .253 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI. If Drew can return to his 2008 form when he hit .291 with 21 home runs and 67 RBI, the Yankees would hit a home run with him. However, Drew’s market is remarkably down and I do not think that the Yankees should sign Stephen Drew because he is not a very good statistical performer and will face a lot of pressure in New York. After this season, the Yankees can sign a shortstop because the class is pretty deep with talent. Currently, there are three shortstops that could play for the Yankees and provide quality production, JJ Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera. JJ Hardy will turn 32 during the 2015 season and has been an All-Star twice during his career. Last year, Hardy had a very good season when he hit .263 with 25 home runs and 76 RBI, while winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award. Last year, Hardy posted a WAR of over 4, which is great. Hardy may cost about $30-$36 million over about 3 years because of his recent success. Another option is Jed Lowrie, who will be 31 during the 2015 season. Lowrie has been improving over the last few years since he has been given more playing time. Last year, Lowrie hit .290 with 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and a WAR of 2.8, but a OWAR of 4.3. Although Lowrie does not have a great glove, he can hit for a good average and should be considered by the Yankees next year. Lowrie will probably demand a contract for about 3 years and $21-25 million. Last of these three is Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be only 29 during the 2015 season. After 2 consecutive quality seasons in 2011 and 2012, when he made the All-Star team and compiled a WAR of over 4, Cabrera had a horrible season last year. Cabrera hit only .242 with 14 home runs and 64 RBI. The Yankees should consider Cabrera next offseason because he will be cheaper than the other alternatives, unless he has a big year, and has more overall potential and talent. If Cabrera can return to his 2011-2012 form, the Yankees would have a shortstop that could bat .275 with 20+ home runs and 75 RBI while playing above average defense at shortstop. Cabrera is also at least 2 years younger than the other shortstops, which means the Yankees will be receiving him during the last of his peak years, unlike the other players. If Cabrera has another poor season, the Yankees may be able to sign him for a deal similar to Lowrie, which could be a steal.
If the Yankees want to make a splash and spend a lot of money through a free agent signing or a trade, they should go after Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, or Troy Tulowitzki. After this season, Hanley Ramirez will be a free agent. In 2015, Hanley will be 31 years old, but is coming off of a great season with the Dodgers. Although he played only 86 games, he showed that he still has the talent that made him one of the best players in the game with the Marlins. During his 86 games, Ramirez hit .345 with 20 home runs, 57 RBI, and 62 RBI while finishing 8th in the MVP voting. If Hanley repeats his performance this season, he will easily make over $100 million in his next contract. Ramirez will be a perfect fit for the Yankees because he would be an improvement at the position and could fit into the middle of the order. Hanley would be able to man the position for a few years before converting to 3rd base. Hanley is a great player and the Yankees should go after him hard next offseason if he makes it to free agency. If the Yankees do not want to sign a shortstop next offseason, they should consider making a trade for one. Jose Reyes is currently on the Toronto Blue Jays, but may become available if the team fails to meet expectations during the season. Like Ramirez, Reyes was limited to only 93 games, but was effective during his time on the field. Reyes, a four time All-Star, batted .296 with 10 home runs, 57 runs, 15 stolen bases, and 37 RBI. Reyes’ injured hamstring from last season inhibited his explosiveness and stopped him from stealing many bases. However, when healthy, Reyes has the ability to steal 40+ bases, collect 65 extra base hits, and bat around .300 at the top of the order. However, Reyes is due a lot of money over the next 4 years of his contract. If the Yankees trade for him during the middle of the season or at the end of the year, they will owe him at least $70 – $76 million dollars over 3 – 3.5 years. Since his contract is an albatross, the Yankees may be able to include lesser prospects in the deal.
If the Yankees want to go for the home run, besides Ramirez, they should attempt to trade for Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies shortstop. Like the other stars, Tulo has been hampered by injuries over the past two season, which has limited him to only 173 games. However, Tulo has shown that he is an MVP candidate and the best shortstop in the game, when healthy. In 126 games last year, Tulo hit .312/.391/.540 with 25 home runs, 82 RBI, and 72 runs scored. Although some of his stats may be inflated because of Coors Field, he has the potential to hit above .300 with 25+ home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, and slug .540. Like Reyes, Tulo has a ginormous contract. If the Yankees trade for him at the deadline, they will owe him at least $126 million over 6.5 years, plus they can exercise a team option which would push the deal to $136 million. If the Yankees are willing to eat the whole contract, they may be able to facilitate the deal, although their farm system is depleted. If they were to make a deal, they probably would have to part ways with Gary Sanchez, a pitcher, Nova or Pineda, and maybe another prospect.
Pics and Stats from ESPN.com and BaseballReference.com