Jeter’s great, but he’s not one of the top five Yankees

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No doubt about it, Derek Jeter is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.  He rates as one of the top 50 position players in major league history, and on Saturday, he became the first Yankee to ever reach 3,000 hits.

The Yankees, though, have had better position players.

Here’s how WAR ranks the top 10:

1. Babe Ruth – 149.6
2. Mickey Mantle – 120.2
3. Lou Gehrig – 118.4
4. Joe DiMaggio – 83.6
5. Derek Jeter – 70.1
6. Yogi Berra – 62.1
7. Bill Dickey – 54.4
8. Willie Randolph – 49.8
9. Bernie Williams – 47.3
10. Tony Lazzeri – 46.6

Pitching included, Ruth’s total is 172.0, barely edging out Barry Bonds for the top spot all-time.

But we already knew Ruth was No. 1. What about Jeter? WAR places him fifth at 70.1. That total places him 55th all time among position players.

I think I’d put him a bit higher than that on the league-wide list.  WAR is giving him plenty of credit for spending his entire career at shortstop, but it’s also punishing him a horrible defensive shortstop.  It says Jeter is 83.8 wins above replacement offensively, but 13.7 wins below replacement defensively.

And I don’t necessarily disagree that Jeter is that bad defensively.  But Jeter deserves some credit beyond the WAR.  He’s been a leading figure on five World Series champions, hitting .309/.377/.472 with 20 homers in 599 postseason at-bats.

WAR isn’t accounting for one bit of that.

So, why does the headline say Jeter isn’t one of the top five Yankees?

Because WAR is punishing Berra far more than it’s punished Jeter.

Catchers, because of their lack of playing time and hard-to-value defensive contributions, score poorly in WAR.  Johnny Bench is 52nd all-time. Ivan Rodriguez is 69th. Berra is 96th. Mike Piazza is 116th.

Berra is better than that.  He was a three-time American League MVP who played for 10 World Series winners.  He’s one of the top three catchers of all-time by any measure, and that trumps Jeter’s accomplishments.

I don’t think it’s too controversial to put Jeter behind Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle, DiMaggio and Berra.  That’s quite a crew to trail.  He’d be the all-time great in some organizations, but on the Yankees, he’ll have to settle for coming in sixth.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.