Derek Jeter has manned the shortstop position for two decades. Jeter often referred to as “The Captain” represented Yankee royalty. His heir apparent named Didi Gregorious, acquired by way of trade from Arizona on December 5, was made a knight in his home island of Curacao in 2011. His knighthood was earned after performing well in an international baseball tournament.
When ranking the all-time Yankee greats there is no question after Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, and Mantle Jeter ranks somewhere in the top ten with Yogi Berra, Don Mattingly, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, and of course Mariano Rivera.
In replacing a Yankee icon in the pressure filled environment of New York, Didi takes on one of the most intimidating jobs in baseball. Just ask Tino Martinez after he replaced Don Mattingly. It took Tino a few years to gain the acceptance of Yankee fans.
What do we know about Didi as a baseball player? He is 24 years-old. Unlike Jeter, who came to the Yankees in 1996 as a fully ready shortstop and won Rookie of the Year honors in his first full season, Didi is a work in progress. On defense he has all the right tools. As a lefty batter, he hits well against righties but really struggles against lefties. In fact, he is one of the worst hitters in baseball against lefty pitchers. In his rookie season of 2013 in 103 games he batted .252 with 7 home runs, 28 RBI, and an OPS of .707. His difficulties against lefties brought his numbers down to an average of .226 with 6 home runs, 27 RBI and an OPS of .653 in 80 games in 2014. The good news is the Yankees have right-handed hitting Brendan Ryan, an excellent defensive shortstop to platoon with Didi; the bad news is Ryan is also a weak hitter.
Flash! The Yankees just traded starting second baseman Martin Prado to the Miami Marlins for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi as part of a five-player deal. With the trade, the Yankees appear as if they will let prospects Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela fight it out to be the team’s second baseman. Scouts believe in both of their bats, but there are questions about their gloves. Of course, the Yankees still have time to trade for a veteran second baseman. I am against this trade. I know the Yankees need starting pitching but losing a very good veteran defensive second baseman leaves Didi with another adjustment problem. The veteran Prado would have been a stabilizing force for Didi. Replacing Prado with a rookie second baseman leaves the Yankees with two question marks up the middle.
With the Marlins in 2014, Eovaldi pitched nearly 200 innings, finishing 6-14 with a 4.37 ERA. He started 33 games, 4th most in majors (good) and allowed 223 hits, most in the majors (bad). He gave up 0.631 home runs per 9 innings, 7th lowest in majors (good). His 97 earned runs was 4thmost allowed in majors (bad) and his 14 losses was 4th most losses in majors (bad). Turning 25 in February with a fastball clocked in the upper 90s, his upside is great. Eovaldi will join the recently signed Chris Capuano to complete a shaky starting pitching rotation of Tanaka, Sabathia, Pineda, and Nova. This group enters with questions regarding Tanaka’s and Nova’s elbows, as well as Sabathia’s knee. Coming off TJ surgery, Nova will not be available until late May. The Yankees may need Eovaldi to approach 200 innings again.
The trade also brings veteran first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones to the Yankees to backup Teixeira. This removes first base as an option for A-Rod. With Hendley slotted to be the regular third baseman, A-Rod will have to share his at bats as a DH with Carlos Beltran. I would not be surprised if A-Rod never appears in another regular season game with the Yankees. I smell a buyout for A-Rod coming soon.
Can you name another major leaguer, in the history of baseball, whose last name begins with Eo?