And those who believe Rivera has been more valuable cannot deny Jeter’s contributions.
Jeter has returned to the Jeter that Yankee fans know and love since coming off the disabled list on July 4, but he will be 38 in 2012. He is not as good defensively as in the past.
It is extremely difficult to determine what the current Yankees ownership and top brass will have in mind for 2012, but they may be forced to react to a move the Boston Red Sox might make.
The Yankees didn’t become sports' greatest franchise by reacting to other teams’ actions, but sometimes, that is necessary.
Indications are that baseball’s best shortstop, the injury-prone Jose Reyes, will test the free-agent market. It was reported in August that the Red Sox are among the teams that will pursue Reyes.
It is not difficult to envision what a difference Reyes would make to the Red Sox, who have used Marcos Scutaro (.271/.333/.371) and Jed Lowrie (.266/.315/.380) at shortstop. They have four stolen bases between them.
Imagine a Red Sox batting order that has Jacoby Ellsbury leading off followed by Reyes. Ellsbury has 36 stolen bases. Reyes, despite leg injuries limiting his playing time, has 35 steals.
Ellsbury-Reyes would be a pitcher’s nightmare. Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis would manage to drive in a few runs, wouldn’t they?
Reyes has only five home runs but he has16 triples. In Fenway Park, he would hit more home runs but fewer triples.
The Yankees cannot allow the Red Sox to sign Reyes.
They must be wary of the Red Sox bluffing about signing Reyes merely to increase his price, but that is the least of the problems the Yankees will face with respect to Reyes.
Giving him a long-term contract, considering the frequency with which he is injured, could be a terrible move. But if he remains healthy, not signing him might be a worse move for the Yankees. There is no way of knowing what will happen.
Another problem: Where will Reyes play?
He did play second base earlier in his career, but there is no way that the Yankees should ever consider that move. Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in baseball and the greatest second baseman in Yankees history.
Derek Jeter has earned the right to remain at shortstop for the remainder of his Yankees career. So where does that leave us?
Right back to Alex Rodriguez.
Despite all the negative publicity about how he spends his time when he isn’t playing baseball, A-Rod is a team player. He proved that when he switched to third base upon joining the Yankees, giving up the opportunity to be ranked as the greatest shortstop of all time.
Rodriguez becomes the primary designated hitter and moves to the outfield against left-handers.
It is not too early to speculate, and you know that Hal Steinbrenner is doing that right now. The Yankees are not facing a simple problem.