Coming off the worst season of his career, Derek Jeter will report to the Yankees’ spring training complex in two weeks to get a head start working with hitting coach Kevin Long.
Full squad workouts aren’t until February 20, but Long told Brian Costello of the New York Post that Jeter “wants to get going” and has already started to make some mechanical adjustments:
We’re well on our way to getting that taken care of and seeing if we can’t speed up the process with him a little bit. I just want to pick up basically where we left off last year and go from there. I think we found something with his stride and the direction of his stride and going up and down with his stride instead of gaining distance and going in. We’re going to try to keep it as simple as we can, try to control his movement and try to get him to be more consistent through the contact point.
Jeter batted .330 in April last year, but then hit just .260 with a lowly .344 slugging percentage in 136 games from May 1 to the end of the season while never cracking even a .725 OPS in a month. After some ugliness in negotiations played out through the media, Jeter and the Yankees agreed to a three-year, $51 million deal that will keep him in New York through at least age 39.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.