I don’t think there’s anything less enjoyable in baseball than watching a highly touted youngster struggle, but unfortunately it comes with the territory. The Brandon Wood story is pretty well known by now. He was a first round pick in 2003 and unmercifully annihilated the minors in 2005 (.321/.381/.667 with 53 doubles and 43 homers in 134 games), which is why Baseball America twice ranked him among the top six prospects in the game. The Angels finally cut ties with Wood yesterday, designating him for assignment almost four years to do the day after his big league debut. So … what does this have to do with the Yankees?
In case you hadn’t noticed, Eduardo Nunez hasn’t been doing much playing this season. Sure, he’s on the bench, but through the team’s first 15 games he’s appeared in one as a defensive replacement (played three whole innings) and has come on to pinch-run twice. That’s it, he’s just rotting away on the bench. And that’s fine, you don’t want to take Derek Jeter or Robinson Cano out of the lineup just to keep Nunez fresh, but it’s not really what’s best for Eduardo’s long-term development.
Nunez’s name has popped up a few trade rumors already, most notably for Cliff Lee last summer, though he’s also been linked to the Royals (for Joakim Soria) and Braves at various points as well. As a 23-year-old with true middle infield staying power and a history of making contact with six full years of team control left, it’s easy to see why he has value around the league. And that’s why he should be playing every day, not twiddling his thumbs on New York’s bench.
If the Yankees are going to make a move on Wood – which I don’t expect them too – they should do it with the intention of having him serve as the utility infielder while Nunez goes back down to Triple-A Scranton to play every day. Acquiring Brandon Wood wouldn’t necessarily be geared towards hoping he lives up to some of his potential, it would be about helping Nunez develop into the best possible whatever he may be for the Yankees, whether that’s a trade chip, utility infielder, Jeter’s successor, or something else entirely. If the Yankees really consider him a future everyday shortstop at the big league level, he should be playing more than he has.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Brandon Wood without mentioning his historic awfulness. The guy has a career .205 wOBA in 494 plate appearances. That’s a 22 OPS+. Among players with at least 400 PA through their age 26 season, that’s the second lowest OPS+ in baseball history. Only the immortal John Vukovich was worse (18 OPS+ from 1970-1974). Who knows, maybe the change of scenery will help, maybe Kevin Long will help (the two already have a relationship), who knows? This is more about Nunez’s development, Wood would just be a warm body to keep on the bench.
As I said, I don’t expect the Yankees to pursue the former Halo. A utility infielder is not a glaring need for them, but it is for some other clubs, especially those with higher waiver priority (though I bet a trade takes place first). Wood’s a legitimate middle infielder with some power in his bat, and the shine of being a former top prospect still exists to a certain extent. He’s out-of-options and will be arbitration eligible after the season (not that he’ll make much money, but still), so he offers little roster flexibility. Either way, it would behoove the Yankees to add a middle infielder to their bench so that Nunez could get some all-important playing time in the minors.