With the news of Derek Jeter’s return delayed until at least late July, guaranteeing he’ll miss 100 or more games this year, it may be time to go to Plan B. The perfect move for the Yankees may be to trade for Texas Ranger’s, Jurickson Profar, a shortstop and the top rated prospect in all of baseball. When Jeter plays his next game as a Yankee, he will be 39 years old. Considering many have questioned his ability to play a credible shortstop for several years, a 39 year old version, coming off of serious ankle surgery, does not seem to be a great fit with a championship caliber team. On the other side of this potential trade we have a team that has two outstanding shortstops. Elvis Andrus, the incumbent Ranger shortstop is a 24 year old who has already made two All Star teams and played in two World Series. Profar made his major league debut last September, as a 19 year old, and promptly homered in his first MLB plate appearance. He is Baseball America’s #1 ranked prospect in all of baseball. He projects to be a legitimate major league shortstop, with above average power and a significantly above average hitter–a rare trifecta of skills.
I can’t think of a better time to gracefully slide Jeter to another role in the Yankee lineup. With his extended absence, uncertain return and even more uncertain physical capacity once he does return, it’s hard to argue with a move to acquire the top shortstop prospect since Troy Tulowitzki. At age 20, Profar would be under Yankee control at least through his age 26 season. His quick bat will likely amplify his left-handed power at Yankee Stadium, making him an even greater than expected run producer. The hope is that within a year or two–by age 22–Profar is a .280 hitter with 15 home runs, plus an above average major league shortstop. His ultimate upside could be the second coming of Robinson Cano.
One question is what can the Yankees give up to induce the Rangers to trade baseball’s top prospect. The Yankees would need to assemble an impressive package of players to acquire Profar. The Yankees farm system is not depleted, but many of it’s top prospects are at lower levels. A package that includes 21 year old outfielder Mason Williams and another highly rated prospect, like Tyler Austin, along with Brett Gardner, may at least get the Rangers attention. If you need to add Joba Chamberlain to the package, it’s worth considering. I realize that Brett Gardner is an integral part of the Yankee offense today, but with Granderson coming back soon, it might make sense to deal from a position of relative strength, in order to solve the long term problem of Jeter’s successor. I just don’t believe Edwardo Nunez has the defensive chops to be an everyday big league shortstop on a contending team. There may not be a cheaper option anytime soon, or one that has the chance to be an enduring, long term solution like Profar.
The toughest question may be where Jeter will play when he returns. Making him the primary DH may be the best option, while easing him into 3B, a position that requires much less lateral range. When the Yankees acknowledge that Jeter cannot play shortstop at a high level, a logjam is inevitable at either DH or the position Jeter moves to. When (if?) A-Rod comes back, it gets even more complicated. A-Rod may be best suited for DH. Hafner can only be a DH. Youkilis is limited to 1B, 3B or DH. However, these problems are only marginally more complicated with Profar replacing Jeter at shortstop. The issue of how to allocate playing time among players who have evolved into immobile, primarily offensive contributors is an issue that is not going away for the Yankees of the next several years. Now may be the time to confront the issue head on.