Yankees May Lose Derek Jeter to DL, Close to Acquiring Vernon Wells

Derek Jeter
Derek Jeter
March 19 2013 Clearwater FL USA New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter 2 prior to the game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field Kim Klement USA TODAY Sports

As if things weren’t going badly enough already for the New York Yankees, now it’s getting even worse. The team will already be going into the season without stars Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, and Mark Teixeira. Now comes word that shortstop Derek Jeter will likely begin the season on the disabled list.

Jeter was on the fast track back to the lineup after breaking his ankle during Game 1 of last year’s American League Championship Series. Recovering from the injury was projected to take three months. But, Jeter has put a lot of miles on his 38-year-old body and bouncing back quickly was hardly a guarantee.

It appears it’s going to take more time. After hobbling through another spring training game over the weekend, it became clear the start of Jeter’s season would be put on hold. General Manager Brian Cashman still thinks April 6th could be a possibility, but there is every possibility it could be longer than that.

So, now, the already injury-depleted Yankees are down another leader. What they’re left with in Jeter’s wake will not likely generate much excitement in New Yorkers’ minds, either; that would be Eduardo Nunez. While the Yankees may view him as the shortstop-of-the-future, his time wasn’t supposed to come just yet.

Nunez has been a utility player for the last three years, appearing in a career-high 112 games in 2011. He was called up in September of last year and ended up playing in 38 games. In the 180 games in which he’s appeared during his three-year career, his slash-line is .272/.318./384. He has shown good speed, racking up 38 career steals, but his defense is a concern. In 2012 he led the team in errors with 20, but management is happy with the improvement he’s shown this spring.

Still, whatever production he provides will probably be less than what Jeter would give. And with the unusual lack of offensive threats the Yankees will have this year, at least early on, it’s a loss that won’t go unnoticed.

So, in an effort to keep the Yankees’ lineup from completely falling apart, Cashman is reportedly close to acquiring outfielder Vernon Wells from the Los Angeles Angels. At one time, Wells was a feared hitter in the American League with the Toronto Blue Jays. From 2003-2006, he hit .292 and had at least 30 home runs each season, including a league-leading 49 in 2003.

But after signing a 7-year, $126MM contract after the 2006 season, his production dropped significantly. In the six years since, he hit higher than .273 just once, has had sporadic flashes of power, and had a WAR below 2 five times.

The Angels had hoped a change of scenery would have helped reinvigorate his performance when they traded for him prior to 2011, but it failed to do the trick. It was a dismal two seasons in California, which were also derailed by injury.

Now, the Yankees are hoping, themselves, that a move to a hitter’s ballpark will help him turn things around. But even that is a risk. He hasn’t fared particularly well in Yankee Stadium, either. There, he is a .242/287/.453 hitter in 23 games.

After a very low-key offseason, and with the injuries now plaguing the Yankees, it’s gotten to the point at which Cashman needed to do something. He’ll have to hope that the pitching staff  holds up and that the offense can tread water enough until their heavy hitters begin making their way back. Otherwise, it could be a rough April in the Bronx.

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Tony Consiglio
Tony Consiglio is a lifelong baseball fan and has worked for television and radio stations throughout New England. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src=p+'://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');