Derek Jeter’s Broken Ankle Complications Puts Yankees’ Playoff Chances in Question

Derek JeterThe New York Yankees’ injury-plagued season took another hit Thursday when the team announced that shortstop Derek Jeter not only wouldn’t be back in May as was said, but also that he suffered a setback with his ankle injury and wouldn’t return until after the All-Star Break.

Jeter broke his ankle in the ALCS against the Tigers, and throughout spring the team said they expected him to be ready for Opening Day. However, Jeter could never graduate to playing spring games and now has been diagnosed with a small crack in that surgically repaired left ankle. Surgery won’t be needed again, but it will take anywhere from four to eight months to heal, and then Jeter would essentially go through full spring training again. That means it’s likely he’s not back until July.

With that injury playing a major role in his 2013 campaign, the Yankees may wonder which 18-year shortstop will show up at the end of the season. He was terrific last season, hitting .316 with 15 homers, 58 RBIs and a major-league leading 216 hits. Jeter was about the only Yankee to hit in the postseason. He also turns 39 in June and was already considered a very poor defender with little range. What will that range be on a twice-injured ankle? Jeter also is in the last year of his contract, although he does have an $8 million player option (which can be bought out for $3 million).

New York general manager Brian Cashman continues to say the Yankees won’t make a trade for a shortstop, but it’s hard to believe him.  Eduardo Nunez has been Jeter’s primary replacement and is hitting .175 with an anemic .271 on-base percentage. Yankees shortstops as a group are hitting .190 with one homer, six RBIs, an OBP of .254 and five runs scored, all among the worst marks in baseball.

The problems in dealing for a shortstop is that the Yankees are trying to get younger and cheaper and don’t want to trade prospects for an expensive veteran. New York has been able to withstand Jeter’s absence pretty well at 10-7 entering this week.  The team has gotten unexpected production from Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells. The former was signed off the scrap heap and hasn’t proven able to stay healthy. The latter was a salary dump by the Angels. Both are unlikely to keep it up.

The Yanks also are hoping to get injured Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira soon, although Teixeira recently suffered a setback with his rehab for a right wrist strain. His May 1 target date has also been pushed back.

Oddsmakers at Bovada believe it’s more likely that the Yankees miss the postseason, listing that outcome at -175 and making it at even money. New York remains +300 to win the AL East. The Red Sox have tied the Blue Jays as -275 favorites.

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