When the 2014 MLB season came to a close we saw the last of Derek Jeter as the shortstop of the New York Yankees. We knew long in advance, allowing every city to say their farewells and shower him with gifts.
When free agency began, the Winter Meetings commenced, and the Hot Stove officially heated up even more shortstops around baseball were about to make a change. Unlike Jeter, they still have baseball left to play.
Some of these men had been in their former homes longer than others. Some parted with kind words while others seemed a little more eager to get out.
Three of the most notable shortstops with new teams include Hanley Ramirez going from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Boston Red Sox, Jimmy Rollins going from the Philadelphia Phillies to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Didi Gregorius going from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the New York Yankees.
Since the Red Sox already have Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, one of many young position players they appear to think very highly of, Ramirez will be asked to play left field even though he never has at the major league level. A shortstop at heart with over 1,000 career games logged at the position, he’s a good alternative to move back to his natural position if Bogaerts struggles or gets hurt. Far from the base-stealer he was early in his career, Ramirez can still hit and get on base. Since 2013, Ramirez has a .382 on-base percentage albeit in limited time.
Replacing Ramirez in Los Angeles is Rollins. After spending his entire 15 major league seasons with the Phillies, Rollins was traded to the Dodgers as the first step of the rebuilding process in Philadelphia. Over 2,000 career games spent at the shortstop position, the Dodgers are taking in the most experienced man around. Rollins continues to steal bases, swiping 28 in 2014, but his batting average has diminished significantly since 2008. In 2014, Rollins hit only .243. However, he did have a career high 64 walks which shows despite the reputation an old dog can learn new tricks. For Rollins, the trick was patience.
Finally there’s Gregorius who has the most difficult task of all. He is the man that has to replace Jeter. Even Rollins’ replacement in Philadelphia, likely to be Freddy Galvis, does not have a fraction of the pressure on Gregorius. Becoming the new shortstop for the Yankees after Jeter is like the Ultimate Warrior becoming the new champion after Hulk Hogan. It’s like when Roger Moore became the new permanent James Bond after Sean Connery. Gregorius is the first boyfriend after a messy divorce. You get the point.
Meanwhile, lesser teams have also brought in new men at the shortstop position. The Houston Astros have talked Jed Lowrie into leaving the Oakland Athletics to join their rise. Korean import Jung-Ho Kang has a chance to agree to a deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates and become the latest to play the position for them. Then there’s Asdrubal Cabrera who has joined the Tampa Bay Rays. His position could be either shortstop or second base. For the time being he’s undeclared.
Shortstop is hardly a position for power hitters like it was during the late 1990s. Still, it remains a spot on the baseball diamond representative of the team’s heart. Bringing in someone new to quarterback the infield should never be taken lightly.