Yankees should probably just leave Jeter at short
February, 5, 2009
By all accounts the Yankees, as much money as they've spent this winter, still have a couple of weaknesses: middle relief and center field. The former isn't something they can fix with one move, but Christina Kahrl suggests that the Yankees could easily fix the latter. All they have to do is shift Derek Jeter to center field and sign free-agent shortstop Orlando Cabrera which of course would have the added benefit of vastly improving the Yankees' infield defense. Kahrl:
Obviously, getting Jeter's buy-in is a real-world problem for a team with a real-world need for a center fielder, because the margins are too thin in the tough AL East for the Yankees to really rely on the wrong Cabrera in the lineup. Crying over last year's spilled Melky won't help you catch up to the Rays and Red Sox, but signing Orlando Cabrera, providing the team with a useful-enough hitter and a slick-fielding asset at short could make a small but important difference to a bad defensive ballclub. Last season's Yankees ranked 25th in the major leagues in Defensive Efficiency (their ability to convert balls in play into outs) and Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, and no positions see more chances than the middle infield.
Swapping Jeter out at short to address the team's need for a center fielder would be the sort of win/win move that can let the Yankees return to the top of the standings while breaking in their new stadium, and it does nothing to damage the Captain's place in franchise history. If Yount or Ripken, MVP winners and top stars in their day, could agree to help their teams and themselves to make these switches, you need to ask yourself why Jeter should be any different, especially when the need has gone from debatable to obvious.
Spending the gross domestic product of some small countries on free agents this offseason, the Yankees are obviously going "all-in" and are desperate to return to the playoffs. Setting aside nostalgia by signing O-Cab and shifting The Captain to center might be a wildly unpopular move, but it's difficult to envision a scenario where such an alignment doesn't improve the club. In a division that figures to be historically great next season (Boston and Tampa Bay aren't going away anytime soon), the Bombers can ill-afford to leave any stones unturned in terms of improving their chances of making the playoffs.