The top New York Yankees priority for the coming offseason is clear: replace Derek Jeter, and trade rumors have been swirling around two names in particular. But there’s a third, surprise name now in the mix — one who may turn out to be the most likely Opening Day shortstop for the Yankees when they take the field at Yankee Stadium on April 6, 2015 against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Starting in 1996, the shortstop slot has been last on the list of Yankee concerns. From his rookie season — when he was named American League Rookie of The Year as the Yankees went on to win their first of five World Series championships during his tenure — the guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer Jeter has manned the position for the Bronx Bombers.
But at age 40, Jeter is calling it quits, creating an unfamiliar problem for New York General Manager Brian Cashman — finding a new shortstop. And Cashman may need someone willing to sign a long-term contract with the Yankees farm system looking thin when it comes to shortstop prospects.
The Yankees’ 2013 4th-round draft pick, Tyler Wade, was a senior at Murietta Valley High School in California just over a year ago and played at Single-A Charleston for the 2014 season. While he’s shown the ability to hit for average, unlike Jeter, he has yet to display any power and is likely still three or four years from his shot at the big club — assuming his power numbers improve.
The Yankees are therefore expected to look to the Major League level for new shortstop and two names have come up most often in trade rumors.
The first, Hanley Ramirez of the Dodgers, would not require a trade at all. Ramirez is playing out the final season of a six-year, $70 million contract with the Dodgers, and at age 31 when the 2015 season starts, will be looking for a big payday on the free agent market.
With offensive numbers comparable to former Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano — who signed a staggering 10 year, $240 million contract with the Seattle Mariners after last season — Ramirez is expected to hold out for a Cano-sized contract. The Yankees weren’t willing to pay for Cano. Will they open up the wallet for Ramirez? It seems unlikely.
On the other hand, the $118 million remaining on the contract of Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, who is locked up through 2020, might seem more palatable, assuming the Yankees were willing to strip an already weak farm system of several prime prospects.
The remaining name, the surprise trade rumor candidate, is the Texas Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus.
Younger than either Ramirez or Tulowitzki at age 26, Andrus is also a lighter hitter than either. But the former top prospect is under contract until 2022 at a relatively economical, by Yankees standards, $14.75 million per year on average.
That’s a contract that the Rangers would likely be willing to unload without a receiving a package of prime prospects in return, just to clear payroll space as the Rangers struggle to rebuild after a disastrous, last-place season in 2014.
There’s still a long offseason to go, but Yankees fans shouldn’t be surprised — though they probably will be if the Elvis Andrus trade rumors come to pass, and the 7th-year Venezuelan native is standing in Jeter’s spot on the Yankee Stadium infield next April.