The impending retirement of Derek Jeter truly marks the end of a special era of Yankees baseball. It is the only era I have known as a Yankees fan, and so many of my childhood memories involve Jeter. I could not be more thankful to be able to watch him when I first started learning about baseball.
All of those great Jeter memories will be covered in great detail over the next few days and throughout the season The real interesting angle of this story is how it effects the Yankees on the field this year. Something like this can have a huge effect on a team in positive and negative ways.
It is interesting that this is the route Jeter took to announce his retirement. The prevailing thought was since he is such a private person that he would not want the treatment Mariano Rivera received. It is great for the fans and the organization that they will get to honor him the right way, and that is probably why they did it.
Before Jeter made his announcement there was already tons of excitement for this upcoming Yankees season. How would Mashiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran fit? Could Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia have comeback seasons? Could David Robertson effectively replace Mariano Rivera? How would young starters Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda develop?
The huge majority of the spotlight will now be on Jeter for this season. He will likely get celebrations at away stadiums like Rivera did, and of course all the home fans will be going to Yankee Stadium to see him as much as possible.
This could take a lot of the pressure off the four highly paid new players who would have been the center of attention if not for Jeter. All four of them have played under the spotlight before, so they should have transitioned to New York just fine anyways, but you never know about that since it can't really be measured.
Jeter's performance on the field also will be an issue. He loves the game and is very prideful, so part of him retiring probably has to do with doubts that he can physically continue to perform at a high level.
Jeter's last full year in 2012 was excellent, as he hit .316/.362/.429/.791 (117 wRC+). However, after a broken ankle in the 2012 playoffs and the subsequent injuries, it is a huge question mark whether Jeter can approach that again. There is a reason that teams do not have 40-year-old shortstops.
Nothing can be put past Jeter, but he is up against steep odds at that age playing shortstop. He never had the best range at shortstop in his prime, and it could really hurt the team this year at the most important defensive position. Would the Yankees ever be able to sit Jeter if he struggled? It would definitely be really awkward and an uncomfortable thing to ponder. It would be great if that was a bridge they never had to cross.
While Rivera's last game at Yankee Stadium was great, it wasn't perfect because it came in the regular season. The Yankees have done all they can do to avoid that fate so far this offseason, but they still have huge holes in the infield and bullpen. The playoffs are no given in the tough AL East.
With Jeter announcing his retirement there should be a huge sense of urgency to give him the best chance to go out on top. Despite all the money they have spent so far, the Yankees can easily afford to spend more.
Wlliam Juliano of The Captains Blog continues to be correct in saying that the $189 million plan set the bar low for their payroll. The Yankees had over a $230 million payroll last season, and right now it is at about $205 million. Jeter retiring will be a cash cow for them this season, so they should easily have a lot more money to spend.
As many other writers here have suggested, Stephen Drew should be have been in pinstripes already and most certainly should be now. His market has really seemed to cool off, and the Yankees should swoop in now. Drew would be a huge upgrade at third base this season and would have a chance to be Jeter's replacement.
He hit .253/.333/.443/.777 (109 wRC+) and 13 home runs last season for Boston. The home run total could go up to 20 with the Yankee Stadium short porch. Drew is a very strong defender, which would be big playing next to Jeter, assuming he can adjust to the new position. An infield of Drew, Jeter/Ryan, Johnson/Roberts and Texiera is significantly better than what they have now. Roberts cannot be trusted to stay healthy, and that brings Eduardo Nunez into the picture if or when he goes down.
The Yankees should also look at some relievers like Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, Ryan Madson and Rafael Betancourt. They will not cost much and could pay off big if they can stay healthy. It is hard to find anybody who is comfortable with the guys who the Yankees have behind Robertson right now.
Jeter's retirement will make this an enjoyable season, but it can be extra special, and Jeter's announcement will have a huge impact on the 2014 team. It can be used as a rallying cry to win it all for him or it could be a distraction. As we saw with Rivera, a rallying cry will go nowhere if there isn't enough talent on the team. Let's hope for the perfect ending for Jeter that Rivera didn't get.