Yankees 2013 Roster Report Card: Brendan Ryan

Maddie Meyer

The classic all-glove, no-hit shortstop made a cameo appearance with the Yankees in September. Should they bring him back since Jeter is now a huge question mark at the position?

Grade: C+

2013 statistics:
(NYY) 17 games, 62 plate appearances, .220/.258/.305, 51 wRC+, 0.1 fWAR
(Overall) 104 games, 349 plate appearances, .197/.255/.273, 44 wRC+, -0.6 fWAR

2014 contract status: Free agent

When it was announced that Derek Jeter was officially lost for the season in early September, the Yankees decided to make a trade for a non-Eduardo Nunez shortstop in a last-ditch effort to reach the playoffs. So on September 10th, the Yankees acquired fielding whiz Brendan Ryan from the Mariners for a player to be named later. He was not going to be eligible for the playoff roster, but it was a move they had to make to see if they could even reach October. Of course they didn't though, and now Ryan is a free agent.

Ryan started every game at shortstop down the stretch, and even though it was just 17 games, he put on a fielding clinic. It was so strange to see a shortstop with vast range after years of watching Jeter at shortstop. Example:

Brendan Ryan, proprietor of Range.  on Twitpic

The score is depressing, but that's not important right now. Teach me how to defense, Mr. Ryan.

The Yankees definitely seemed to like Ryan's play down the stretch, so might that be an indication that they have interest in bringing him back to take some of the regular time in the field away from Jeter and his ailing ankle? The Yankees risk a lot every time they run Jeter out there at shortstop, perhaps the second-most physically demanding position behind catcher. A nigh-40-year-old Jeter is going to have a damn difficult time appearing in 135 games at shortstop as he did in 2012. The Yankees need a better back-up plan than the error-prone Eduardo Nunez.

Ryan carries his own baggage, too. He is absolutely horrendous at the plate, having hit just .217/.283/.294 with a 64 OPS+ in 1,799 plate appearances with the Cardinals, Mariners, and Yankees since 2010. He cannot hit, and he'll be 32 years old in March. It's not as though his bat is still developing; he's just an awful hitter. Ryan last had a good year with the bat in '09 with the Cardinals, when he hit .292/.340/.400 with a 98 wRC+, which combined with his sterling defense made him worth 2.8 fWAR and 4.5 rWAR for the NL Central champions. That season represents the outlier among six disappointing seasons since a decent rookie campaign in '07. It's possible that playing in the far more hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium could help Ryan after the better part of three seasons at Safeco Field, but it's unlikely to make a dramatic difference.

The shortstop market is not very impressive, and the Yankees just seem very unlikely to actually acquire one of the big names like Stephen Drew or Jhonny Peralta. Unless the Yankees told them that they would, without a question, be the team's primary shortstop over Jeter (which as Greg has mentioned, will not happen), I can't imagine why they would want to come to New York and play second fiddle to Jeter.

However, there does seem to be a chance that the Yankees could bring Ryan back to at least play some shortstop while Jeter DHs. Ryan's game has declined enough that he probably won't get any attractive starting shortstop gigs despite his dazzling defense, so if the Yankees can convince him, it would not be the worst idea to get his glove back on the team. Maybe something surprising will happen with his bat, but as long as the Yankees have a backup shortstop who can actually field, it would make fans feel a lot better about the upcoming campaign. Of the shortstop options who the Yankees seem likely to pursue, Ryan might be the best.

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