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November 29, 2005

Reuters: Yankees manager ponders center field options
by SG

I've linked to an interesting article from Reuter's above.

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Yankees manager Joe Torre says the club is keeping its options open for a pressing need in center field -- including the possible use of one of their two All-Star caliber shortstops, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez.

New York manager Torre said he has considered the merits of converting either Jeter or Rodriguez, who has been playing third base since joining the Yankees, but has not raised the subject with either of his star players.

"We've thought about it," Torre said in an interview with Reuters on Monday.

"We just haven't made a commitment to that. We haven't broached it with the shortstops."

The Yankees, eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this season by the Los Angeles Angels, are looking to replace the 37-year-old stalwart Bernie Williams, who slipped to 12 homers and 64 RBI last season.

The former batting champion hit a mere .249 and his defensive qualities appeared to suffer a decline in standards.

At next week's winter meetings in Dallas, the Yankees will also be taking a hard look at the prospects of landing free agent candidates such as Brian Giles of the San Diego Padres and Johnny Damon of the arch-rival Boston Red Sox.

Echoing a scenario laid out by general manager Brian Cashman, Torre said the Yanks could yet decide to go with their own light-hitting defensive specialist Bubba Crosby in center field.

The position has been one of baseball's glamour positions over the generations for the Yankees with Joe DiMaggio giving way to Mickey Mantle and the last decade artfully manned by the graceful, clutch-hitting Williams.


Should the Yankees decide it is easier to fill third base than center field, 2005 MVP Rodriguez or Yankee captain Jeter could inject a jolt of star power to the position and add to that fabled legacy.

If shortstop Jeter moves to center, Rodriguez could slide across to take his place.

"That's happened before hasn't it?" Torre said about converting a power-hitting infielder into an outfielder.

"Bobby Murcer, Mickey Mantle. Hank Aaron came up as a second baseman. Robin Yount went to centerfield.

"It certainly is a consideration."

Torre said he did not think it would take Rodriguez or Jeter very long to get accustomed to the outfield and that after spring training, either one could do a good job if moved.

Though he stressed that such a dramatic position switch was a dreamy notion, he said he did not doubt that his infield stars would do what was in the club's best interest if asked.

"Jeter would do anything and so would A-Rod (Rodriguez) for that matter, to help this ball club win."

Thanks to Anonymous(a different one) for pointing this out.

Very interesting to see Torre thinking this way. I bash him pretty frequently for his in-game tactics, but this is very progressive thinking by him, and I applaud him for it. If anyone can sell Jeter on moving to CF, it's probably Torre. The question would then be, who plays third.

I doubt anything will actually happen here, but what if they did ask Jeter to move? The way I see it, the options are to have Rodriguez stay at third and sign Rafael Furcal or trade for someone at short or to move Rodriguez to short and sign or trade for a third baseman. The only third baseman who is even decent as a free agent is Bill Mueller, and he's not a particularly good hitter outside of Fenway and he's getting older. With shortstops, there also isn't much out there, with Furcal being the best of a bad bunch. Nomar Garciapparra is still floating around, but his injury issues make him a risky proposition.

Arizona is looking to trade Troy Glaus. While he is also an injury risk, a Glaus for Carl Pavano trade would make sense for both teams, and be a wash financially. The Yankees would have the depth to cover for a Glaus injury with Jeter and Rodriguez moving back to SS and 3B, although they'd have to go with Bubba Crosby in center. I don't see many options at shortstop, as most are either too good to be traded, or too bad to be worth trading for.

I'm not happy about the continued rumors that the Yankees are interested in Damon if he lowers his asking price. The thought of him in a Yankee uniform just sickens me.

I don't really feel like thinking about the bullpen today, as the Flash Gordon leaving rumors are swirling around (to the Phils). However, I would be remiss to not wish Mariano Rivera a happy 36th birthday. At age 35, Rivera had arguably his best season ever, putting up a 323 ERA+ and holding opposing hitters to an OPS+ of 39 (.177/.235/.230). The Mets may have made the back pages by signing Billy Wagner, but they're just paying more for the right to have the second best closer in the five boroughs.