It took 145 games, but the Yankees finally have a decent shortstop

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

(Patrick Smith/Getty)

As far as the shortstop position goes, the theme of the Yankees’ season has been “waiting.” Waiting for Derek Jeter to get healthy and waiting for Eduardo Nunez to do something that validated the team’s faith in him. Neither of those things happened. Jeter played only 17 games around four leg injuries before being shut down for good last week. Nunez has put up a 75 wRC+ in nearly 300 plate appearances while remaining a huge defensive liability. Reid Brignac, Alberto Gonzalez, and Luis Cruz all came and went.

It wasn’t until Jeter got hurt for the fourth time that the Yankees found someone who actually provided some stability at the position. They acquired Brendan Ryan from the Mariners for a player to be named later — it’ll probably be someone you’ve never heard of before and won’t miss — and he’s taken over as the everyday guy at the position. Joe Girardi said he planned to have Nunez and Ryan split time at short but it hasn’t happened. Ryan has played every inning of every game at shortstop since being acquired.

“I don’t know if it’s the most enviable position to step in after a legend,” said Ryan to Andy McCullough soon after the trade, referring to replacing Jeter. “He’s not going away. I don’t want to make it sound like that. I don’t even know what his status is.”

The 31-year-old Ryan took an 0-for-4 in his first game in pinstripes but has since gone 6-for-21 (.286) at the plate. Two of those six hits have started game-winning rallies — leadoff single in the ninth last week in Baltimore, leadoff double in the eighth last night — and another was a solo homer over the Green Monster this past weekend. Considering his career 71 wRC+, Ryan has already contributed more offensively than we could have been reasonably been expected. Those six hits are gravy.

Defensively, there’s just no competition. Brignac and Cruz were solid — above-average, even — glovemen but not comparable to Ryan, who has already made a handful of stellar plays both ranging to the second base side of the bag to his left and deep into the 5.5 hole to his right. The Yankees were getting nothing from the shortstop position for most of the season, no offense and mostly poor defense, so Ryan has upgraded at least one part of the team even if he stops hitting (which is likely given his track record).

The fact that Ryan has been the team’s most productive shortstop of the year after a whopping seven games tells you all you need to know about what went wrong this season. The Yankees waited and waited for Jeter to return and their 39-year-old captain let them down repeatedly, coming down with a new injury in a matter of days each time. Nunez had his own injury problems and despite showing off improved throwing mechanics, his defense still makes him a liability. Ryan has been reliable and expected expectations so far, but his acquisition was too little, too late.

Categories : Players
  • FLYER7

    Yankees should do everything in their power to re-sign Ryan. If they have to play him at SS though they need someone with some pop to catch and not Stewie lol

    • JAG

      I was just going to ask something like that. I’d be in favor of bringing back Ryan over signing someone like Stephen Drew who may theoretically offer more offensively. One would hope Ryan would come back somewhat cheaply, allowing the money that might have gone to a guy like Drew to instead go to a guy like McCann or Lincecum.

      • vicki

        stephen drew plays great defense. his issue is his stark platoon split. but wouldn’t it be better to get some offensive production (against rhp) rather than none?

        • LarryM Fl

          I agree with your premise on offense especially with most rotations carrying more right hand starters. Drew will be more expensive than Ryan.

          Can not believe that is even a thought for the benefit of a Yankee roster. But 189 or bust is the mission. If Arod and Cano are absent for 2014. Money should be no object.

          The Yanks have a week till after the WS to come to an agreement with Cano. 6/125 is a nice contract and the Yanks can go year to year afterwards. It seems fair to both parties.

        • Mark Teixiera – Ghostbuster (formerly Drew)

          Also Drew can’t stay on the field and is injury prone. I would rather have Ryan. While he might not hit for much but you can count on his defense and he can at least split 70-30 time with Jeter next year.

      • Darren

        By theoretically, you mean, actually, right?

        Drew has an OPS+ of 97 compared to Ryan’s 72. Ryan can’t hit. yeah the defense is great, but the blackhole in the 9th spot would get very very tiring over the course of a season.

        It’s a moot point, though, since Jeter’s gonna be the SS for 120 games. So yeah, sign Ryan as a back-up. He seems to be genuinely thrilled to be a Yankee and it would be a good opportunity for him.

        • LarryM Fl

          The Yankees may play hardball with the captain about the amount of playing time if any at short. From my prospective the captain did not look very agile. I understand the rush back but you can see it will be a miracle if any improvement in lateral movement is gained.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Derek Jeter will play 180 games at SS next year for the Yanks. You heard it here first.

          • KeithK

            Woot! Guaranteed AL Champions!

            • Robinson Tilapia

              Derek Jeter will play 230 games at SS for the Yanks next year, who will clinch the AL Pennant in June on his 4,000th hit.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Darren, I’m totally just fucking with you.

                • Darren

                  If you include a Game 163, the WC and the playoffs, Jeter could EASILY play in 180 games next year, with a few games left over to DH.

                  Seriously though, if can regain his health, I think he’s going to play 120 games at short. If he looks like he did this year, obviously that won’t be possible.

                  In any case considering the in-house options (or lack thereof) and need to spend money elsewhere (catcher, OF, pitching), a return to form by Jeter is what everyone should be PRAYING for, instead of prematurely shoveling dirt on his coffin.

                  • Winter

                    I’d love a return to form from Jeter. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to count on it.

        • OldYanksFan

          Jeter against RHP:
          2010: .246 .316 .317 .633
          2011: .277 .329 .338 .666
          2012: .294 .346 .377 .723
          2014: .??? (can’t be good)

          My guess is Jeter will play SS against LHP (50+/- games) and play 75+/- games at SS and primarily DH. Remember, ARod will not be around to DH the first 100+ games.

          • OldYanksFan

            Also… in a full season, Ryan is a 2+ WAR player (all Defense). That may well be better that 2014 Jeter.

    • Wolfgang’s Fault

      Everything in their power? Jeez, the guy can barely hit a buck & a quarter & we have to move heaven & earth to keep him here? No thanks. Jeter’s can’t play shortstop any longer, & they need a shortstop, so they have to get one over the winter; simple as that.

  • Frank

    Hopefully, Yanks resign him to play SS next season. With Tex returning, and if they upgrade the offense at 3B, the OF and catcher, they can afford to carry a weak bat like Ryan. But he’s a wizard at SS.

    • trr

      I’d be OK with this….small sample so far , but he’s been the best SS this year. Plus, he wouldn’t break the bank for next year

  • Eddard

    LOL! If Ryan is decent I guess every other SS in the league is considered an All Star. He’s not decent and why are arguments being made on 25 ABs? I thought sabermetricians didn’t like SSS. Also, 6/25 ain’t exactly decent. Nuney has better numbers than that on the season.

    • Mr. Roth

      Nunez may have the slightly better bat, but Ryan is leaps and bounds better defensively. It’s like comparing the defense of Teixeira in his prime to Giambi.

      Hell, that might even be an understatement.

      • JGYank

        I like great defense as much as the next guy but the last thing we need is another black hole in the lineup. Pitchers will dream about our bottom of the order next year with Ryan Ichiro Wells and Stewart on the team. We can’t put a lineup like that out there if we want to score. If we want Ryan we are going to have to get offense at other positions.

        • Mr. Roth

          Absolutely agree with this.

        • jedua

          maybe they can get a catcher that isn’t batting worse than a pitcher

        • mitch

          Do you really have Ichiro, Wells, and Stewart already penciled into the lineup next year? My confidence in the FO isn’t all that high right now, but there’s no chance they’d enter the season with a lineup that weak.

          • I’m One

            I’m with you. I’d bet my bottom dollar (that’s the one on the bottom of the stack of singles I keep around for … you know … “nights out”) that at least one of them isn’t an every day player (if they’re even all on the team).

          • Mr. Roth

            I’d be extradordinarily surprised if they went into the season with plans of Ichiro, Wells, and Stewart being everyday starters.

            • JGYank

              One of Ichiro/Wells won’t be a starter with Soriano and Gardner on the team (and possibly Grandy) and Stewart is at best a backup. But we don’t have someone to replace Stewart yet and who knows what happens with Jeter so Ryan and Stewart could possibly be starters if something goes wrong or the FO downgrades at a position like C this year. Like I said injuries happen and Ichiro and Wells could find some playing time like they did this year. Also our team is old and guys will need plenty of days off (especially catchers). So we need as much offense as possible around them just in case those guys end up somehow getting playing time.

          • JGYank

            Well Wells and Ichiro are already under contract for next year so yeah they’ll probably be on the team whether they should be or not. As for the Stewart and Ryan it’s possible the FO keeps them both especially since Stewart knows our pitching staff and Jeter can’t play everyday and we don’t want Nunez in the field. Plus injuries happen and bench guys might play a bigger role than intended and guys need days off so these guys could find their way into the lineup. And the FO hasn’t exactly made great moves recently so you never know what they do.

            • Wolfgang’s Fault

              Nunez has to be dealt over the winter. I think he’s a better ballplayer than we saw this year, & better than most of you think he is, but he’s never going to get another chance to prove that here, so he’s gotta go. Package him in a deal for a real shortstop. They can’t go into next season depending on Jeter or expecting Ryan to play there every day. At the least, they have to acquire an everyday, competent shortstop who can contribute offensively.

    • jedua

      Eduardo nunez is having the worse year of his carrer

      he has a carrer 2.2 oWAR his runs above relacement are -23

      his defense sucks.

      i think he pretty much sucks all around

    • WhittakerWalt

      Your boyfriend Nuney can make a pretty strong case as the worst player in baseball, so I’d give it a rest.

  • mitch

    I’m not against resigning Ryan, but only as a backup plan. Obviously more easily said than done, but finding a longer-term option should be Plan A. Plan Y is Jeter backed up by Nunez. Plan Z is Nunez.

    If they do end up with Ryan they absolutely need to go outside the org for a catcher that can hit.

  • Greedy Bastards

    “The Yankees waited and waited for Jeter to return and their 39-year-old captain let them down repeatedly, coming down with a new injury in a matter of days each time. ”

    Isn’t this too passive of an interpretation? Jeter was allowed to come back the first two times on his own schedule. And he re-injured himself both times. How long did he spend on assignment? 6 total games?

    That’s the team’s fault for not saying no, especially during Spring Training.

    • WhittakerWalt

      No one ever says no to Jeter. That’s why he’s going to be our starting shortstop next year, even though he’ll have the approximate range of a cigar store Indian.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Funyons. Cigar store Indians. Great day for visuals on here.

        • WhittakerWalt

          “That’s why he’s going to be our starting shortstop going to play 300 games at SS next year”

          Is what I should have said.

    • Yankee Fan 1

      Cashman has said multiple times that Jeter was cleared by doctors every step of the way. Sometimes things do not go as planned.

  • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

    “, but his acquisition was too little, too late”

    The threads on this site of late have been such:

    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

      They’ve been like that for the entire season outside the first ~30 games and a brief blip in late august.

      • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)

        But can you blame it since this team has totally tanked it after being hit with so many injuries. The players have totally given up on the manager who has mis-managed the team most of the year and of course ownership has done nothing to stop this. After a hopeless September without any meaningful games what else is there left to do.

        Oh! Waiting a minute…..

        • Robinson Tilapia

          If Steinbrenner were still alive, you bet none of this would have happened. Papa George made sure there was a championship…, wait, that’s not right either.

          He would have grown a farm system as big and bountiful as Kim Kardashian’s…, wait, he wouldn’t have.

          He would have KEPT those prospects…..nah, no chance of that one either.

  • jedua

    I think mike was trolling eddard a little bit

  • Frank Costanza

    I was having a discussion with a co-worker of mine who’s a Red Sox fan. He hates the Peavy trade becaue he loved Iglesias. “Iglesias is the best defensive SS in baseball,” he said. To which I replied, “First of all, the best defensive SS is on the Yankees.”
    “Derek Jeter sucks at defense!” he replied, perhaps sarcastically, not really. “Oh…Brendan Ryan. He’s not nearly as good as Iglesias,” he said.

    So who ya got? I know a lot of people will take Iglesais based on his youth. But right now I think Brendan Ryan is the best defensive SS in baseball. Until Iglesias has enough innings in the majors to properly evaluate his defensive metrics, that’s my opinion.

    • mitch

      Simmons is the best right now

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        Yup, this.

  • Frank

    if by 145 games, you mean 19 years then yes. yankees finally have a good defensive shortstop.

  • Robinson Tilapia

    Let’s not start group-blowing Brendan Ryan just yet. Yes, I’m happy he’s here. I also don’t necessarily think the answer to “who’s on the bench in case Derek can’t answer the bell” is either Ryan or Nunez. I’ll gladly take that middle ground who isn’t the human vaccuum (so many suction references here) Ryan is, but can give a bit more at the bat than he can…..if that person is out there and available. Maybe it is Stephen Drew. Maybe it’s not.

    • mustang (The Has Beens & Wannabes Bunch 2013)


      I bet Brendan Ryan will be in the same spot next year that he was in this year. A late year pick-up for some team that needs an emergency SS.

      tells you so.

  • Tyrone Sharpton

    Being a college kid, it’s really nuts to see this squad be crappy and have a bleak future…never thought the day would come when someone like brendan ryan would be labeled as a decent fill in for DJ

    • Darren

      You might be a little too young to remember Erik Almonte.

    • I’m One

      Get used to it. We head years of Brendan Ryan-like fill ins at SS before DJ came along.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        Would Ryan have been the best Yankee SS of the 80′s?

    • Robinson Tilapia

      It’s all good. This is how the callous grows. Soon, you’ll be able to walk on fire without feeling it.

  • http://Riveravenueblues Mississippi doc

    Maybe Alvaro Espinosa is still available

  • Tom

    The only way they should resign him is if they learn the folly of their ways of last offseason and don’t punt offense at C and RF.

    Even if he’s mostly backing up Jeter, he will play a lot and that means quite a few lineups of Ichiro / Stewellimine / Ryan.

    You are basically looking at the SS version of Chris Stewart. Although in fairness to Ryan there is little question he is great defensively and it doesn’t rely on fuzzy metrics and reputation. But these two players should be treated like matter and anti-matter – you really don’t want them in close proximity to each other (meaning: on the same team)