Where will the Yankees go to replace Jeter next season?
For the first time since 1996, Derek Jeter will not be the Yankees' shortstop next season. Here's an early look at what's available to (gulp) replace The Captain:
Sign a free agent
As it stands, this is the most likely option because many capable shortstops will be free agents next offseason. That list includes Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers), Asdrubal Cabrera (Indians), J.J. Hardy (Orioles) and Jed Lowrie (A's). Jimmy Rollins (Phillies) and Yunel Escobar (Rays) have contract options. If Stephen Drew signs a one-year contract this spring, he could be a free agent next year, too.
Of those possibilities, Hardy could be the most attractive to the Yankees. He'll be 32 in August and has averaged nearly 26 home runs for the Orioles during the last three seasons. Ramirez is a prime offensive player, but he might re-sign with the Dodgers before getting to free agency. Cabrera is the youngest of the group at 28. Lowrie has been injury-prone, Rollins might be done and Escobar has a reasonable $5-million team option with the Rays, so he might not even be a free agent.
Make a trade
If the Blue Jays have another down year, could former Met Jose Reyes go on the trading block? Reyes, who turns 31 in June, has never lost his affinity for New York. He also doesn't have a no-trade clause, which is how he ended up in Toronto after signing a megadeal with the Marlins when the Mets chose not to retain him. Leg injuries have always been an issue for Reyes, but he would bring the star power the Yankees crave. After his experiences in Flushing, Reyes probably would not be overwhelmed by having to replace a legend in the Bronx.
Other possible trade targets? Troy Tulowitzki is as good a player as there is in baseball when he's healthy. He wears No. 2 in honor of Jeter. The Rockies have never seriously entertained trading him and would want quite a haul back for their best player.
The Cubs have a young shortstop prospect coming soon in Javy Baez and could look to move Starlin Castro, who has regressed since making the big leagues at age 20 in 2010.
Defensive wizard Brendan Ryan is signed for 2015 with an option for 2016. If he starts, the Yankees better have a pinch hitter ready because Ryan is as weak at the plate as he is excellent with the glove.
Eduardo Nuñez still will be around, but he couldn't hold the shortstop job when Jeter was injured for most of the 2013 season.
The Yankees don't have any immediate help coming from the farm system at shortstop. Cito Culver, the team's 2010 first-round pick, is only 21 but looks like a bust. He's a career .238 hitter in the low minors and hasn't advanced above Class A.
Speedy Abiatal Avelino looked good in his first season as a pro with 26 stolen bases in rookie ball. But he's only 19. The same can be said for 19-year-old Tyler Wade, a lefthanded batter who hit .291 in rookie ball last season. Both are promising but are far, far away from the big leagues.
Move A-Rod to shortstop
Alex Rodriguez will be reinstated for next season. He's played shortstop before on an MVP level . . . no, stop it. Just kidding. With his battered hips and pushing 40 in 2015, A-Rod will not be playing shortstop for anybody when and if he returns from his season-long suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal.