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Derek Jeter Replacements: Nine Players the Yankees Could Explore

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Derek Jeter will retire after the 2014 season. Gifts will be exchanged. Tears will be shed. Comparisons to Jesus will be made. The Jeremy Giambi flip throw and the word intangibles will be mentioned roughly 421,012,873 times between now and the end of October. Oh right, his string of high-profile girlfriends will also be discussed.

Got all that?

Odds are the Yankees will go through 2014 with Jeter receiving the majority of playing time at shortstop. New York already has Brendan Ryan on board to spell him as well as Eduardo Nunez, so signing someone like Stephen Drew remains highly unlikely.

However, where will the Yankees turn in 2015, the first time in two decades the won’t have The Captain at short? To the dismay of Yankee-haters worldwide, Brian Cashman and his braintrust will have plenty of options to explore. Those options will almost assuredly come from outside the organization either through a trade or free agency. Let’s take a look at nine current Major League options the Yankees could consider come November.

Reasonable Free Agents: 

J.J. Hardy, Orioles: Hardy, 31, hits the open market after this season. For what it’s worth he’s won the last two American League Gold Gloves and he’s been around a +3 WAR player during his three seasons in Baltimore, although he’s below average via the wRC+ advanced metric. Add it up, Hardy is a steady, roughly average shortstop. The Yankees probably wouldn’t have to break the bank to sign him but do they really want Hardy for something in the range of $45 million/4 years? In 98 lifetime at bats at Yankee Stadium he’s only hit four homers and batted .194. 

Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians: Only 28, Cabrera’s stock was a lot higher a few years ago. He’s facing a crucial 2014 before he hits free agency. Cabrera’s still an ace fielder, but his .700 OPS in 2013 is concerning. If Cabrera is good in 2014 the Yankees obviously can spend more than the Indians or anyone else to sign him if they want. Cabrera will be an option, but likely not at the top of the Yankees’ list.

Bank-Breaking Free Agent:

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Hanley Ramirez, Dodgers: The status of Ramirez could change if the Dodgers (and their TV money) decide to extend his contract before he hits free agency when this season ends. The Yankees, or anyone else, are looking at a $20+ million per year player here. New York didn’t exactly bend over backwards to re-sign Robinson Cano last year, but then spent nearly half a billion on Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Masahiro Tanaka and Carlos Beltran, so you just never know what Cashman is going to do when a high-priced player hits the market. Ramirez could also be targeted to play third base, assuming Alex Rodriguez never plays another game in the Bronx. Ramirez is one of those guys with a lousy reputation — shocker that baseball writers don’t like him, right? — but he’ posted a .312/.367/.553 line since his trade to the Dodgers in 2012. If the Yankees aim big — they never got the chance to bid on Clayton Kershaw — Ramirez is the guy they’ll target.

Low-risk Trades:

Alexi Ramirez, White Sox: Chicago GM Rick Hahn would probably drive Ramirez to the airport if the Yankees wanted to trade for him. He’s owed $10 million for 2015 and then has a $1 million buy-out. The Yankees wouldn’t have to give up much if they wanted to add Ramirez as a one-year stopgap.

Ian Desmond, Nationals: Washington probably doesn’t want to trade a guy whose won the last two NL Silver Slugger awards at short. Desmond is owed $11 million for 2015 and is then a free agent. The Nationals need to figure out how they’ll afford Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, so maybe Desmond is a causality as they look to save some money. Although he’s a free agent after the 2015 season, the Yankees would still have to trade something of value to acquire him. 

Three BIG-Money Trades:

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Jose Reyes, Blue Jays: Reyes will be 31 in June. Would the Yankees want the $66 million remaining on Reyes’ contract through 2017? He was a star with the Mets in New York and the Jays might be open to trading him. If George Steinbrenner were still alive this scenario would be a lot more plausible since it would cause Mets’ fans heads to explode. Given his injury history and overall frailty, hard to see the Yankees targeting Reyes. Even if Toronto wants to clear his salary the Jays would want something significant in return and would the Yankees want to trade one of their better prospects like Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams or Slade Heathcott to a division rival? (And it goes without saying, opposing GMs should always be quite leery of trying to acquire highly-touted Yankees prospects.) 

Starlin Castro, Cubs: Have the Cubs soured enough on Castro to put him on the market and open up short for Javier Baez? He’s only 24 and his contract — $48 million guaranteed through 2019 — is peanuts for the Yankees. Is Castro the kid who made the All-Star team in his second and third season or the guy who slumped to an 72 OPS+ in 2013? Of all the guys on the list, Castro might present the biggest risk/reward for the Yankees, although he wouldn’t come cheap. 

Elvis Andrus, Rangers: Hey … isn’t Texas still looking for a way to get Jurickson Profar to play his natural position at short? Jon Daniels gets a lot of praise, but the extension he gave to Andrus is soon going to end up on a “worst contracts” list. Andrus is no slouch, but is he worth $15 million each year from 2015-2020 and then $14 million in 2021 and 2022? Even the Yankees probably wouldn’t want to add this salary regardless of how slick Andrus remains with the glove. It’s a lot to pay a guy with a lifetime .688 OPS and zero wRC+ seasons over 100. Andrus might have better range than Jeter ever had but his lifetime .274/.339/.348 doesn’t approach The Captain’s lifetime .312/.381/.446.

Pie in the (Mile High) Sky Target:

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Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Tulowitzki wears No. 2 (and does the occasional jump-throw) in a homage to Jeter, just don’t expect to see it in the Bronx any time soon except when the Rockies pay a visit. He signed an extension that pays him $118 million from 2015-2020. Unless things turned soured and Tulowitzki tried to pout his way out of Coors Field, it’s hard to see a scenario he gets dealt. Even so, do the Yankees have enough enticing major-league ready prospects to pry him away? As good as Tulowitzki’s lifetime .509 slugging percentage is, he’s only managed to play over 150 games twice in his eight-year career.

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