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Brian Cashman thinks he has a promising player in Didi Gregorius

Shortstop Didi Gregorius gets ready for an at-bat.

Shortstop Didi Gregorius gets ready for an at-bat. Photo Credit: AP

SAN DIEGO -- From the Yankees' perspective, the most notable thing about their new shortstop, Didi Gregorius, is that he's not Derek Jeter.

Which is fine. They're over it.

By acquiring Gregorius from the Diamondbacks in Friday's three-team trade that also sent Shane Greene to the Tigers, the Yankees got a younger, cheaper, defense-first shortstop to follow Jeter, the longtime captain, owner of five World Series rings and future first-ballot Hall of Famer.

For everyone else, this is going to take some getting used to.

"No one will replace Derek Jeter,'' Brian Cashman said. "I think that he was one in a billion. My efforts are just trying to upgrade from what I got.''

Former Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers once compared the up-and-coming Gregorius to a young Jeter. High praise, but a dangerous label for any shortstop trying to establish a foothold in the majors, particularly one who has played only 191 games and is a .243 hitter.

Cashman thinks Gregorius has the ability to improve at the plate, a sentiment shared by rival talent evaluators, and more playing time should help.

In 2013, Gregorius made 97 starts at shortstop for Arizona and batted .252 with a .704 OPS. He slipped to .226 and .653 in 2014, with a handful of starts at second base and third base in addition to 66 at shortstop.

Heading into 2015, Cashman expects Gregorius, a lefthanded hitter, to initially share a platoon with righthanded-hitting Brendan Ryan, an arrangement that will give Gregorius the majority of the starts there. From what we've seen in other instances of replacing Yankee icons -- Tino Martinez for Don Mattingly is one example -- Gregorius probably will benefit from the occasional mental breather.

When the Yankees are on the field, in their mind's eye, people still will see Jeter standing out there, just as he did nearly every day since 1996, his Rookie of the Year season. Gregorius isn't expected to speak on the subject until this week, but that will be an inescapable part of the transition process for him regardless of whether anyone admits it.

Obviously, the surest way to clear that hurdle is by making an immediate impact. Gregorius doesn't turn 25 until February, and if he can make the strides at the plate to match his glove skills, the Yankees will feel pretty good about the shortstop position again.

"We believe that there's more gas in the tank in terms of his development on the offensive side,'' Cashman said. "He's not a finished product. It's hard to answer the question about how much he needs to improve to justify or feel comfortable with [the trade]. I want the best player he can possibly be.''

Gregorius was born in Amsterdam and raised in Curacao, an island that recently produced two other elite shortstops in the Braves' Andrelton Simmons and the Rangers' Jurickson Profar.

Both his father and brother also share the nickname "Didi'' -- Gregorius' birth name is Mariekson Julius -- and he was a talented basketball player while growing up before signing with the Reds at age 17.

Cincinnati sent him to the Diamondbacks as part of a three-team, eight-player deal with the Indians in December 2012, so this marks the second time Gregorius has been traded in the span of two years. Maybe this one didn't catch him by surprise. Back in October, Gregorius -- a talented sketch artist -- posted on Twitter his pencil drawing of Jeter tipping his helmet.

Two months later, Gregorius was headed to the Bronx. And Cashman said Friday he would have preferred to have it happen even sooner.

"He's someone we've targeted,'' Cashman said. "Not just this winter, but during the past seasons. Hopefully he'll benefit us. We believe we're in a better place than we were when we started this winter. We're excited to have him.''

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