Could Brendan Ryan be a long-term solution at shortstop?

Rick Yeatts

The Yankees acquired Brendan Ryan for the stretch drive heading to October, but should the team look to keep him beyond 2013?

In case you missed it, the Yankees made a trade. Brian Cashman and Jack Zduriencik of the Mariners paired up as trade partners once again and agreed on a deal that will send shortstop Brendan Ryan to the Yankees in exchange for a player to be named later. On the surface, Ryan was acquired to help give the Yankees an extra push for the second Wild Card. He'll be a free agent following this season, and of course we don't know if he's in the Yankees' long-term plans or not, but it should be something that's considered by the front office.

This season with the Mariners, Ryan hit a paltry .192/.254/.265 in 287 plate appearances, good for a career-low 43 wRC+. Ouch. But that's not what Ryan's game is about. It's about defense. In his career, Ryan has a career 11.7 UZR/150 in over 5300 innings at the shortstop position. And it's not just UZR that likes him. He has graded very well in each of the other advanced defensive metrics over the years, although, for whatever reason, his numbers have dipped a bit this year, but are still solid:

UZR DRS dWAR FRAA
2010 13.3 22 3.0 8.3
2011 10.6 18 2.6 13.3
2012 13.8 27 3.6 12.0
2013 1.0 3 0.9 4.8
Career 50.2 94 13.8 66.6

Derek Jeter will have a decision this offseason, and that's whether or not he'll pick up his $9.5 million player option, or choose to decline it and test the free agent waters for what will probably be his final time doing so. At the same time, with him being 39-going-on-40 years old, it'd seem kinda foolish of Derek to not pick up the $9.5 million option and try to sign for more money and/or for multiple years. I fully expect him to pick up the option, use the offseason to fully heal and strengthen his legs, and gear up for a 20th Major League season. No matter what the Captain decides to do, though, the Yankees should look into keeping Brendan Ryan beyond 2013.

Yes, Ryan is very bad with the bat (71 wRC+ in over 2500 career plate appearances), but his skills on defense are something no other shortstop in the Yankee organization, or even in the rest of Major League Baseball, can say they have. Some like to think Eduardo Nunez can be a competent backup shortstop/Jeter replacement, but that has simply not happened. Despite posting a .780 OPS since the beginning of August, Eduardo, who has a career 85 wRC+ in 256 career games, is still hitting a weak .257/.311/.356 with a 77 wRC+ this season, while continuing to play terrible defense. Not to mention, the other in-house options, like Jayson Nix and Addison Maruszak, are pretty awful as well, thus Ryan would serve as upgrades to both. His defense alone is very much worth keeping around.

It's been talked about for nearly a couple of years now, but Plan 189 is just around the corner. Even with a bunch of money coming off the books following 2013, Randy Levine and the Steinbrenner boys will be expected to go cheap anywhere they can, and that includes backup shortstop. Ryan made just over $3.2 million this year and probably won't get much more in free agency this winter. Given the Steinbrenner's frugal tendencies, Jeter's age and injury concerns, the lack of other in-house alternatives, as well as Ryan's spectacular glove, the Yankees would be wise to at least consider keeping their newly acquired shortstop heading into 2014.

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