Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Derek Jeter On DL For Now; Could Jose Reyes End Up In Pinstripes?

The decision to place Derek Jeter on the 15-day DL has given the New York Yankees a possible glimpse into the future and opened up a giant can of worms for the team.  If Jeter wasn't chasing his mythical 3,000th hit, some Yankee fans might secretly call his tweaked calf a blessing in disguise.

While the Yankees put Jeter's historic milestone on hold, Eduardo Nunez gets 12 games to audition for the future shortstop opening and Brett Gardner moves to the lead-off spot.  These changes might highlight the glaring deficiencies the Yankees captain has displayed this season.

Like it or not, there is already talk about the Yankees trading for shortstop Jose Reyes from their cross-town counterparts, and cash-starved, New York Mets.

That sound you just heard is a mixture of Yankee fans wincing and Mets fans throwing up a little.

No matter how blasphemous picturing the 'anti-Jeter' Reyes in pinstripes sounds to Bomber fans, Yankees GM Brian Cashman has to be thinking about how far the Yankees can go with the 36 year-old Jeter at shortstop and leadoff.  How does he go about replacing a team icon?

 The 28 year-old Reyes is having an MVP-type season.  He leads the majors with a .346 average and has 11 triples, 49 runs scored and 22 stolen bases.

Jeter has been quietly struggling to fulfill his quest for 3,000.  It's been painful to watch.  The future-Hall-of-Famer is batting .260 with 39 runs and seven stolen bases.  Jeter's .649 OPS is a fraction of Reyes' whopping .914.

For now, the 24 year-old Nunez is Jeter's replacement at shortstop and has waited a long time for his first big shot on the Yankees.  Jeter hasn't been on the DL since 2003 and left little time for anyone to showcase their talents.

Nunez is a capable sub and was named the Yankees minor league player of the year in 2010.

When the Yankees haggled with Jeter over his 3-year, $51 million contract over the winter, did they really believe he would struggle this much, this fast?  The Yankees poster boy is not the .342 hitter with range and power he once had and, without saying it too loudly,  Nunez might be a better all-round player right now.

While Nunez auditions, it is Reyes who is waiting in the wings.

Cashman isn't the only one who has to make an unenviable decision about his shortstop.

The Mets must decide if they can afford Reyes or if their best player is worth more in a trade.  If the Mets don't commit to Reyes the cash-poor team will have to let him go.

Reyes is signed through 2011 and some cynics wonder if the immature shortstop is playing up to his potential because he is in the final year of his contract.  Others say he's finally grown up.

Reyes, in nine seasons,  was a shadow under Jeter's  bright lights.  He could only watch Jeter win championships and get TV endorsements while Reyes was a blip on the back pages except for health or maturity issues.

The Mets star has been criticized for his juvenile antics in the dugout and and mental mistakes on the field, but makes up for it with speed and his bat. 

Jeter seems to be aging faster than Brooke Shields this season and his range and the ability to perform in clutch situations has diminished greatly.  Cashman will have to decide if he wants to trade his future stars in the minors for a playoff run.

Either way, it wouldn't be easy replacing Jeter during a milestone season.

It was hard enough getting the stubborn Jeter to accept his DL stint.  Imagine the monumental task of telling the proud face of the Yankees he is being replaced-- by a Met... especially in a playoff race!

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