This off-season, the Yankees had lost quite a few players to free agency, but still looked like the obvious and dominant power in an American League East that, for all its talent, was brimming with questions. After injuries to Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, and Derek Jeter, though, things started to look a bit more even out east. It's going to take just a bit longer now for the Yankees to be whole again, as Jeter suffered a setback with his injured ankle, and now, in the words of general manager Brian Cashman, is expected to be out until after the All-Star break.
Derek Jeter has a small crack in the area of the previous injury, per a CT scan. Cashman says he won't be back until after All-Star Break.— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughSL) April 18, 2013
Eduardo Nunez has filled in at short for Jeter in nine of the Yankees' 2013 games, and has not hit well to begin the year. For his career, in 522 plate appearances and 190 games, Nunez owns a .271/.318/.378 line and 87 OPS+ that, while not good even at shortstop, is certainly tolerable if he can handle the position with the glove. It's Nunez, though, and all of Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Baseball Reference thinks he's a zero (or worse than that, really) with the glove. That's a problem for the Yankees, unless consistent play in Jeter's absence benefits Nunez afield.
A division that seemed to be tight from the nearly top to bottom just seems that much more tightly packed now that Jeter is expected to be out longer. While Jeter is also far from helpful defensively, he's hit .294/.352/.396 the last three years, well above the average shortstop. Without that in their lineup for half the season, in concert with their other injuries, this just might be what bumps the Yankees from the projected top of the heap to the middle, along with the other four clubs in the division.
That's good news for the Red Sox, but at the same time, you like to beat your opponents while they're at their best. The Yankees just don't feel like the Yankees without Jeter around while he's still active, and it's something of a shame that the fate of the season could end up decided due to injuries. Red Sox fans can surely spare some empathy for that particular avenue, given their last few years.