The Yankees and Derek Jeter are (apparently) so far apart that the latter’s agent is “baffled” by the hard-line stance the former has taken in contract negotiations. Since that’s happening, let’s take a quick look at the non-Jeter options the Yankees have at shortstop.
Internally, they have (relatively speaking) the youngsters Ramiro Pena and Eduardo Nunez. Both offer something, but it’s not all that much. Pena hit an empty .287 in 69 games in 2009 (.317 OPB, .373 SLG), but flashed decent leather at third and short. In 2010, he hit .227/.258/.247 in 85 games. He would a more typical field first, hit later shortstop, but his offense is just too bad to plug into the lineup every day.
Eduardo Nunez carries a .274/.318/.369 career minor league line, though he’s hit better there of late. In 2009, he hit .322/.349/.433 and in 2010, he hit .289/.340/.381. When he was called up to the Majors, Nunez hit .280/.321/.360 with five steals thrown in for good measure. There has been talk of his improved defense, but it looked “meh” to my eyes. For what it’s worth, UZR didn’t like him very much either (-1.0 in just 39.1 innings). If he could improve on his fielding and replicate that batting line, he’d basically be a replacement level player. I guess that would be okay since he’s being paid like one and he could be hidden in the lineup, but I don’t expect either his fielding or hitting to improve.
Externally, the field is pretty crappy. The possibly non-tendered J.J. Hardy is a definite option, though he’s not extremely attractive. His bat is on a down swing (.684 OPS from ’09-’10), though UZR has rated him very highly (nothing lower than 6.0 since 2006).
World Series “hero” Juan Uribe is still free agents as well. The former can hit (20+ HRs in the three of the last five seasons) and UZR has him ranked as being able to hold his own at SS (+18.5 since 2002). However, his low walk rate (5.5% career) makes him unattractive. His perceived value also may be a little higher now that he just won the World Series and hit two relatively big homers in the playoffs.
Those are really the only other options outside of a trade. Edgar Renteria could be considered, but he’s even older than Jeter. The other possibilities represent players that are simply NOT starters.
If I had to pick out of those guys, I’d pick J.J. Hardy. He’s not fantastic, but he’s a definite improvement over Pena and Nunez and will likely be much cheaper than Uribe or Renteria. Of course, the elephant in the room here is that Jeter is still the best option. He’s the most likely to be productive with the bat, enough so that it makes up for his poor defense. If they’re reading this, the Yankees are probably pissed because I just kinda-sorta gave the Jeter camp some leverage. However, I still think the Yankees are the ones with the most leverage. Right now, they’re the only bidders for Jeter and no other team will even dare to go as high as the Yankees will (even if that is low for Jeter’s taste).