Editor’s Note: NESN.com Red Sox reporter Tony Lee will examine one hot-button baseball topic each day in December. On Wednesday, he looked at the winter meetings.
Baseball’s hot stove season has been dominated this week by the Derek Jeter drama and the head-turning extension that Troy Tulowitzki received in Colorado. Indeed, shortstops have been at the forefront of many recent discussions.
So why not follow the trend? As fans and pundits analyze what some of the guys who play the position make or should be making, let us rank our top five major league shortstops as of today.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Now, $157.75 million guaranteed seemed a bit pricey, especially for a guy with some injury issues in his short career. But there may not be any player in baseball with a more complete package than Tulowitzki. Plus, he just barely turned 26 and figures to enter his prime during the meat of the extension.
Tulo beats out Hanley Ramirez in the category for three specific reasons. One, the Rockies’ franchise player is trending upwards offensively while Ramirez is coming off a down year. Two, the former is a far superior defensive player — his 2010 Gold Glove Award is just one bit of proof, but so much more says so. Three, it would be rather shocking to see Tulowitzki benched for loafing, as Ramirez has been known to do.
That’s a whole lot of dough the Rockies just handed out, but at least they gave it to the right guy. Colorado can expect a .300/30/100 line plus stellar defense for years.
2. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins: A year ago he would be the No. 1 choice without an argument and he has the talent to regain the throne, but heading into the 2011 season he would have to take a backseat to Tulowitzki. When it’s all said and done, Ramirez will probably have better career numbers than Tulo and perhaps some of the best all time, regardless of the position, but the seeming lack of intangibles and his marginal glove make him the second-best shortstop overall at this point in time.
3. Jimmy Rollins, Phillies: It only seems as if Rollins has been around forever, but he just turned 32 on Saturday and is only three years removed from an MVP season. Rollins’ numbers have dropped since then, and injuries shattered his 2010 campaign, but he still has power, speed, a great glove and a team-first personality. Another year like last one (.243 batting average in 88 games), though, and we can safely drop Rollins off the list.
4. Jose Reyes, Mets: Like Rollins, Reyes is a guy who has seen injuries derail him for the past two years but was perhaps the most electric player in baseball from 2005-08. It would be wise to give the 27-year-old a chance to get a full season back under his belt before you forget about that. Reyes showed plenty of that electricity during a hot stretch last summer and finished with a .282 average, 30 steals and 11 homers in 133 games. He is entering a free-agent year, so expect a return to form.
5. Derek Jeter, free agent: We could’ve easily thrown Alexei Ramirez or Stephen Drew right here, but what fun is that? Also, despite the worst season of his career, Jeter still deserves recognition. He is just one year removed from a .334 season, has remained incredibly durable (just one season with fewer than 148 games since he became a regular in 1996) and even in a definitively down year managed to reach double figures in steals and homers for the 15th straight season. Because of his remarkable consistency over the course of his career, we reserve the right to see a second straight bad year before burying the Yankees’ captain. There should be some correction in his offensive statistics in 2011, after which the baseball universe can scream about his lack of lateral range again since that’s about all anyone could come up with before his numbers began to sag.
Who do you think is the best shortstop in baseball? Share your thoughts below.