Alex Rodriguez will miss the entire 2014 season after an independent arbitrator reduced his suspension stemming from the Biogenesis scandal to 162 games, plus any potential postseason games, on Saturday. The ban leaves the New York Yankees with a clear void at third base for the upcoming season, and no clear options to fill the position on a full-time basis.
With Brian Roberts already on the roster, some believe that Kelly Johnson could enter a platoon at third base with a right-handed hitter – possibly Mark Reynolds, who finished last season with the Yankees, or Michael Young. However, this strategy just proves the Yankees learned nothing after the signing of Travis Hafner a season ago. Roberts has missed 75 percent of his team’s game over the past four years, and it stands to reason that the former All-Star will make at least one trip to the disabled list. Eventually, Johnson will be needed to play second base regularly, and once again, there will be a hole at the hot corner.
Many believe the Yankees will pursue Stephen Drew, a shortstop who spent last season with the Boston Red Sox. However, it is unclear if Drew would be open to a move to third base, especially when other clubs still view him as a viable option at shortstop. So, what if the Yankees were to pursue Drew as a shortstop? Doing so would create the need to move future Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter off the position which he has manned for the Yankees since 1996, a move which Jeter has not appeared to be overly receptive to in the past.
But 2014 could be the year that Jeter finally agrees to make the move. Jeter is 39 years old and coming off a season where he hit just .190 and was able to play in just 17 games after four different disabled list stints due to leg injuries. Joe Girardi and the team’s front office could pitch the shift to third base – a position where one needs far less range – as a way to potentially save Jeter’s legs over the course of the season and avoid any recurring problems. And of course, having Jeter on board with the move would make the adjustment all the more easier for the Yankee captain.
Of course, the call is not entirely Jeter’s, despite being one of the most prolific players in the storied history of the New York Yankees. Brian Cashman could once again play the role of the bad guy, as he has had to do before during intense contract negotiations with Jeter during the 2010 offseason, and not give Jeter any choice in the matter. However, sources within the organization have indicated that the team has no intention of moving Jeter off shortstop without his consent.
Forcing Jeter, who has become a liability in the field, to make the move to third base would not unprecedented. In fact, one of the most recent cases of forcing a long-time star to move off their position most recently happened in the Yankees organization. When Jorge Posada entered his final season with the Yankees, it was made abhorrently clear that the team no longer viewed him as a catcher, and he would instead serve as the team’s regular designated hitter due to the belief that he was a defensive liability. One other high-profile instance of forcibly shifting a future Hall-of-Famer off their position occurred when Cal Ripken was forced by Davey Johnson to make the shift from shortstop to third base in the twilight of his legendary career.
Should the Yankees forcibly move Jeter off the position he has manned for so long, it could easily get ugly in the clubhouse and in the media. When the Orioles moved Ripken initially, he would not even speak to Manny Alexander, who replaced him as the everyday shortstop, fueling conflict within the clubhouse. Jeter could easily let a feud with the Yankees go public and create an uncomfortable position for all. That said, Jeter has always wanted to play for a winner, and perhaps he would be willing to make the shift in the interests of competing for the sixth World Series championship of his career.