Saturday, November 16, 2013

Jeter Says He Expects To Play Shortstop Next Year

The Yankees have seemingly been doing everything in their power to prepare for Derek Jeter no longer being their everyday shortstop in 2014.  They met with Stephen Drew's agent at this week's GM meeting, they're reportedly close to a deal with Brendan Ryan, who took over the starting job in September when Jeter hit the DL again, and they paid him more money than they needed to in an apparent attempt to appease The Captain and keep him from causing problems in the media.

As expected, none of that has changed Jeter's mentality this offseason.  He's started his workout program already and speaking to reporters at a Joe Torre foundation fundraiser this week he had this to say about his expectations for next year:

"My job is to play short. It’s been my job since I came up, and it will continue to be my job. I understand the concerns because of everything that went down last year, so I understand that, but I’ll be ready to go."

I'm sure Jeter is going to do everything in his power to get his body ready to play shortstop next season.  What I'm not so sure of is how well it, particularly that ankle, is going to hold up to the rigors of playing everyday after basically taking a year off to heal.  The body doesn't just ramp back up to the everyday physical grind at age 40 like it did at 35, 30, or 25.  I think the fact that his ankle is good enough to do leg strengthening exercises regularly is a great sign, but the real test will come when the ST games start.  If Jeter can't play every day then, there's little reason to expect he'll be able to once the regular season starts.

LOOGY Watch: Javier Lopez

The early bullpen talk has revolved around late-inning guys and potential closer options.  Yesterday we got our first strong LOOGY target when Andy McCullough reported that there is the always encouraging "mutual interest" between the Yankees and free agent lefty Javier Lopez.  While it's nothing certain, this is a strong indication that the team will not pursue bringing Boone Logan back.

Lopez, 36, is an absolutely devastating LOOGY, one of the best in baseball.  He held left-handed hitters to a measly .156/.208/.222 batting line (.197 wOBA) in 26.1 IP in 2013 and for his career lefties are hitting just .209/.294/.301 with a 21.4% K rate against him.  Similar to Clay Rapada a few years back, Lopez works from an awkward arm angle and features a fastball/slider combination that has its strength based in the delivery more than the velocity.

Lopez's agent said that Lopez wants to play for a contender and "wants the innings to be meaningful." He would have a great chance for both of those things assuming the top lefty role in the Yankee 'pen.  For now it sounds like the 2 sides are going to table talks until the Yankees address some of their other more pressing needs, but Lopez would definitely be a great fit on a 1-year deal.