Monday, January 25, 2010

Is it time for Jeter to move to the OF?

The idea of moving Jeter to the outfield is a sore subject for many Yankees fans.

For those outside of Yankee fandom, the idea was in vogue going into the 2009 season—but in 2009 Captain Jeter proved most of us (his defensive naysayers) wrong. He had a stellar defensive season and, much to my chagrin, proved to still be the class of shortstop world. 

I submit that the addition of Mark Teixeira improved Jeter's defensive standing—first by the distance from the first base line that Tex plays allowing everyone in the infield to shift, and secondly by the Gold Glove standards at which Tex fields throws from his infield mates. 

Neither of these things, whether taken together or separately however, fully explain the captain's defensive renaissance. Hard work, pure talent, and a drive that does not exist in most normal mortals have to be added to the many reasons that Jeter's defense saw such vast improvement in 2009. 

All of this being said, I think now more than ever it is time to move the captain into the OF. The Yankees have cut themselves loose of Matsui and most likely Damon, and are now facing a gap in LF.

The orthodox plan is to allow Brett Gardner to fill that roster spot, likely hitting ninth and playing above average defense in LF. This is a fine inside the box option. 

But let's step outside the box for a moment. The likelihood of Jeter repeating his stellar defensive year from 2009 in 2010 is low. Also, the captain continues to age (like the rest of us), and as he ages, his skills will diminish exponentially.

The SS position is one that does not treat aging bodies well, while many of our aging greats can continue to excel playing in a less strenuous position (like LF or first base).  So why not move Jeter to LF now, while there is a semblance of an opening on the Yankees' roster at the position?

Why not move him now that the ridiculously talented Curtis Granderson is roaming CF and can cover up some of the deficiencies the captain will likely have in his first full year as an outfielder? 

Who will fill his spot at SS, you ask? Why, any number of players may be made available to the Yankees as the year progresses.

Orlando Cabrera is still a free agent, and Ramiro Pena sits on the Yankee bench. Neither player is an upgrade from Brett Gardner, but might Gardner's best role for the club not be as a roaming OF covering for Swisher, Granderson, and Jeter, as each needs the rest? 

Is the Jeter to LF idea a perfect solution? Probably not...but if Yankees fans want to keep the captain around as long as possible, he will have to make the move to LF sooner or later—and sooner may make the transition easier.

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