Inbox: Should Jeter move to another position?
Yankees beat reporter Bryan Hoch responds to fans' questions
As the baseball offseason picks up steam, let's take a few moments to dig into the Yankees Inbox again and see what has been on the minds of our readers:
How likely is it that Derek Jeter will realize after his ankle injury that changing positions would not only benefit the team, but his career?
-- Javy C., California
We know that general manager Brian Cashman says that the only two places the Yankees will consider playing Jeter in 2014 are at shortstop and designated hitter. Shifting Jeter to third base is not something they want to flirt with, even with so much uncertainty about Alex Rodriguez's situation, so we can extinguish that idea right off the bat.
There was a story a few years back where Cashman thought out loud about Jeter moving to center field. It's difficult to imagine anyone taking such a suggestion seriously today, given the events of the past 13 months. It's also obvious that Jeter has no interest in embarrassing himself on the field coming off a season that he repeatedly described as "a nightmare."
As Joe Torre said last week, if things aren't playing up to Jeter's expectations at shortstop, he expects Jeter would have the awareness to shift to a reduced role. Jeter believes a full winter of lower-body training will get him back to his age-defying 2012 form. The Yanks would love to count on Jeter to play at least half a season at shortstop, picking up some at-bats as a DH along the way. You'd probably want more power out of a full-time DH, but maybe Jeter could do the job against lefties.
So what's it going to look like on the defensive side? Everyday shortstops just don't exist very often in an age-40 season: in the modern era, you're looking at a group that consists of Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Smith and Barry Larkin. None of those three were coming off a devastating ankle fracture and additional setbacks.
The Yankees certainly have no interest in betting against Jeter, but they're going to need insurance in case a storybook ending isn't in the cards, and Jeter should understand that. Re-signing free agent Brendan Ryan, as they've reportedly done, is a good start.
Do you think David Robertson has what it takes to replace Mariano Rivera after what we've seen from him in the eighth inning and in his few save opportunities?
-- Daniel S., via e-mail
In short, yes, I believe Robertson has the tools to do the job and do it well. The problem is that he has not proven it yet, securing just eight of his 18 career save opportunities. That's why you're seeing the Yankees kick the tires on all available relief options -- closers included.
The expectations are going to be set unreasonably high taking the job from a surefire Hall of Famer, and I think we can already envision the back pages and sports talk radio outcry when Robertson (or whoever Rivera's successor turns out to be) blows a save. It will happen sooner or later.
"That wouldn't have happened with Mariano," someone will inevitably cry, but let's remember that Rivera wasn't perfect, even though that 89.1 percent career save rate was excellent. There's no reason to think that Robertson couldn't be very good. He wields an impressive strikeout rate, his walk rate improved this season, and he seems to have the mentality that you want from a closer: even Rivera agreed on that.
Now it's just a matter of getting used to hearing "Sweet Home Alabama" in the ninth inning instead of "Enter Sandman." That one might take time.
What are the current thoughts on Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain?
-- Alex S., North Carolina
Perhaps the best way to sum it up is that there has been a sense of fatigue on both sides. A lot has transpired since 2007, and it wasn't uncommon to hear both players remark how quickly the time had passed for them. In the long view, there were definitely lots of positive moments over their time with the Yankees; the problem was, not many of them took place in 2013.
It really is remarkable to consider the effect that Hughes' season will have. If there was ever a year not to go 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA, this was it; in the spring, people were talking about the chance of Hughes scoring somewhere between Edwin Jackson money (four years, $52 million) and Anibal Sanchez money (five years, $80 million).
No one thought there'd be debate about the Yanks even making a $14.1 million qualifying offer to Hughes, who ultimately may be best served to try a change of venue in a spacious National League park. It might be fun to see him and Ian Kennedy paired again as teammates in San Diego.
As for Chamberlain, the velocity was still there, but his command never really seemed to get back on track this year after an oblique injury. I'm sure that he'll have a seat when that annual game of relief pitcher musical chairs ends, but I wouldn't expect Chamberlain to still be wearing pinstripes come spring.
What do you think the chances are that Carlos Beltran will be manning right field in the Bronx in 2014?
-- Ben S., via Twitter
For weeks, we have been reading reports of "mutual interest" between Beltran and the Yankees -- even while Beltran was wearing a Cardinals uniform in the World Series. It makes a bit of sense for both sides, but if it's true that the Yanks' top targets are second baseman Robinson Cano, Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (whose availability is now uncertain due to the issues with the posting system), Beltran and catcher Brian McCann, then I'd rank Beltran fourth on that priority list.
There are positives in that Beltran has proven he can still slug, and Cashman made it clear that he'd like to improve an outfield that right now carries Alfonso Soriano, Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells. You'd have to assume that Beltran would be in line to take over the Curtis Granderson role; he'd be an instant upgrade over the Ichiro/Wells platoon.
Beltran's numbers might improve by the opportunity to DH on a semi-regular basis, but he'll turn 37 in April, so it's not like the Yankees are getting any younger with him. The Yanks passed on a pitch from Beltran once before, back when they still had Bernie Williams patrolling center field. With so many other issues on the table for them this offseason, they might have to do it again.