What they saw, however, was a 39-year-old shortstop whose body isn’t holding up well to the rigors of the game.
Granted, the broken ankle that kept Jeter on the shelf since the playoffs last season could have happened to anyone, but his return was as anticlimactic as anything Yankees fans could have expected.
At 39, Jeter can’t be expected to contribute the way he has for nearly two decades donning pinstripes. Even if his recent injury is inconsequential and he returns to the lineup soon, the Yankees need to have a contingency plan in place.
So far, their plan has included a group of shortstops batting a combined .211 this season.
In 53 games this season, the three players currently slotted at shortstop behind Jeter on the depth chart—Eduardo Nunez, Alberto Gonzalez and Luis Cruz—have been marginal at best. The trio has produced a putrid batting average with an on-base percentage that may be an even worse sign (Nunez leads the group at .289).
Even if Jeter comes back (again), there’s no guarantee he’ll be back for good. The Yankees can’t afford to rely on that trio going forward.
The question is this: How willing is general manager Brian Cashman to make a big move before the deadline with his team reeling from several crucial injuries?
New York has historically come on strong in the second half, aided by some key acquisitions and the returning health of its veteran stars. At 50-42, it isn’t as if the Yankees are too far out of contention to not justify such a move.
If the Yankees hope to salvage their season and make a push in the AL East, Cashman will have to pull the trigger on a deal to bring more talent to the shortstop position, especially if Jeter returns to the shelf for an extended period of time.
As a team, New York is batting just .243 (24th in the league), slowed by the absences of Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson. There’s reason to believe the offense will pick up when those players return, but questions still remain.
The Yankees can’t keep fending off major injuries and remain relevant in the AL East. At some point, Cashman has to make a move that will augment the team’s talent in wake of those injuries—namely at the shortstop position.