Sunday, Nov. 28, 2010
By Chuck Garfien
Of all the needs the White Sox possess this off-season, finding a new starting shortstop ranks near the bottom, somewhere between another KennyOzzie feud and a second Disco Demolition.
In Alexei Ramirez, they have one of the games brightest, and for the moment cheapest stars. Hes not going anywhere.
But then came the stunning news this past week out of the Bronx: Derek Jeter is available. Arguably the greatest shortstop in a generation, maybe more, has been told by Yankees GM Brian Cashman to test the market after Jeters camp was baffled by the teams three-year, 45 million offer. His agent is reportedly asking for a four-to-five year deal at 23-24 million per season.
Mickey Mantle never made more than 100,000 a year. Times have obviously changed.
Most assume the two sides will eventually come to their senses, and reach an agreement. The Yanks need Jeter, and vice-versa, like human beings need air, food, water and cable TV.
But what if they dont?
What if the Yankees look at Jeters age (36), his career-low batting average in 2010 (.270), the money needed for free agents in 2011 and 2012 like Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, Albert Pujols and Jimmy Rollins (yes, even the Yankees have a budget); and conclude that its 45 million or bust for Jeter, opening the door for their longtime captain to walk?
Dont think the Yankees havent discussed the possibility. Why else would they offer him a pay cut of over 7 million a year? Clearly they believe that Jeters best days are behind him.
Or what if Jeter feels so disrespected by the Yankees, and tired of being in the financial shadow of Alex Rodriguez, that he calls the Yankees bluff and spurns them for another team? Jeter has some Joe DiMaggio in his blood. Like Joltin Joe, he can hold a grudge.
Red Sox anyone?
These are questions to consider, especially if youre an American League GM, who by signing Jeter can strengthen your team, while weakening the hated Yankees.
Its the dream scenario.
Jeter did struggle in 2010, but for him that still meant 111 runs, 30 doubles, plus intangibles as a leader that remain at the top of the MLB charts. Considering his competitive drive, plus a burning desire to prove the Yankees wrong if he left, Jeter could have a career renaissance for his new team.
Which leads us to the White Sox. Would Kenny Williams contemplate rolling the dice on Jeter?
Out of wild curiosity, I texted Williams to see if he would bite on the Jeter scenerio. He didnt respond. Wasnt expecting him to.
But honestly, going after Jeter seems right up Kennys alley. Its the kind of headline-grabbing move that has defined the Williams era on the South Side. Kenny likes going after the big fish: Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez, Torii Hunter, Roy Halladay, Jake Peavy, Miguel Cabrera...even if he swings and misses.
Jeter might be past his prime, but hes still a great white shark. Would Williams just sit there with a player of Jeters caliber available and not see if hell take the bait? Any bait?
On the surface, Jeter on the Sox doesnt seem like a logical fit. For one, Ramirez is locked in at shortstop.
But what if Jeter was willing to play third base? No team has ever won a pennant with a 36-year-old shortstop, let alone 37, which hell be next October. Think the Yankees are concerned about that? Theres even been talk in New York about moving Jeter to left field. Jeter cant play shortstop forever, a switch is coming, it's just a matter of when.
The Yankees captain did win a fifth Gold Glove in 2010, but he's lost a good chunk of his range. Plus, the award is a popularity contest, and we in Chicago know who really deserved the award: Ramirez.
And if A-Rod can move to third, why cant Derek? Then the question is this: Can the White Sox afford him?
Considering their payroll, Williams would seemingly need Bart Conner, Mary Lou Retton, and Nadia Comaneci for the financial gymnastics needed to make room for his salary. Thats a major stumbling block, and extra moves would be an absolute necessity. Plus, Jeter needs a major dose of reality, because hes certainly not worth 23-24 million a season - nowhere close.
Judging by the Sox pursuit of Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn, there is money to be spent. They lost out on Martinez, there's plenty of competition for Dunn, what if they strike out there? Personally, I'd rather have Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski back than take a stab at Jeter.
But the future Hall-of-fame Yankee is out there, his market value has taken a hit - although he doesn't seem to realize it yet.
Derek Jeter to the White Sox?
It may not be as far-fetched as you think.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.