While it’s not quite as big as the moves they’ve already made or ones they’ve been rumored to make, the Yankees were busy on Tuesday afternoon. Earlier today, the team announced that they had claimed infielder Jeter Downs off waivers from the Nationals.
Earlier today, the Yankees claimed INF Jeter Downs off waivers from the Washington Nationals.— Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) December 19, 2023
A former first-round draft pick by the Reds back in 2017, Downs has spent parts of the last two seasons in the major leagues. In 20 games and 50 plate appearances, he’s hit .182/.260/.273 with a 46 wRC+. He’s played all of second base, shortstop, and third base in the major leagues and has even appeared in a game in center field down in the minors.
Downs was considered a Top 100 Prospect by several outlets as recently as 2021. The majority of his subpar hitting numbers came from a 2022 stint with the Red Sox, as he was a bit better — albeit in a very tiny sample size — with the Nationals this past season.
For on-the-field purposes, Downs is probably just being brought in for some depth, as the Yankees do occasionally love themselves some former high-pedigree prospects who haven’t quite made the grade. However, this acquisition is also notable for some other reasons.
The main one is, well, look at his name. Jeter Downs is named after, yes, that one: former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. The 25-year-old was born in 1998, right as the Hall of Famer was still in the early days of his long career with the Yankees. Downs himself has been open about liking the name and calling the original Jeter one of his favorite players.
Another notable aspect is that, with the previous addition of Alex Verdugo, the Yankees now have two of the main pieces that the Red Sox acquired in the 2020 trade that sent Mookie Betts to the Dodgers. LA had acquired Downs in a seven-player deal in December 2018, and then used the highly-rated young infielder to snag Betts from Boston in a controversial deal back in February 2020.
As mentioned, Downs has some prospect pedigree in his past, although it’s been a while since he’s truly truly put together an all-around great year at the plate, at any level. That being said, he’s still a bit on an intriguing player, and at the very least, it’s gotten us some amusing “Yankees acquire Jeter” headlines. Now they just need to figure out which uniform number containing a 2 they can assign to him.