Poll: The Starting Third BasemanBy
With Mark Reynolds joining the Indians, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Kevin Youkilis will sign with the Yankees to replace the injured Alex Rodriguez next season. The team offered the long-time Red Sox a one-year, $12M contract at the Winter Meetings last week and are still waiting for his answer, but the Reynolds signing figures to take the Terry Francona-led Indians off the board. Obviously it’s not a guarantee Youkilis with sign with New York, but right now things are pointing in that direction.
Just like the catcher position, the Yankees do not have a suitable in-house replacement at the hot corner. Unlike the catcher position, the Yankees are actively looking to acquire a player to man the position next year. Their internal solutions at third base are a little more promising than they are behind the plate, but it’s still an uninspiring group. Let’s review.
The most veteran of the team’s in-house options, the 30-year-old Nix put up a .243/.306/.384 (88 wRC+) line with the Yankees this year and is a career .214/.285/.371 (73 wRC+) hitter. One thing he does decently is hit lefties, including a .255/.318/.408 (97 wRC+) line this year and .239/.309/.428 (94 wRC+) for his career. Nix has proven to be very versatile, starting at least nine games at second, short, third, and left field in 2012. The Yankees recently signed him to a new one-year contract worth $900k, and convinced him to accept a minor league assignment. Nix cleared waivers a few days ago and remains with the organization, but not as a 40-man roster player.
Nunez, 25, is one of the more polarizing players in Yankeeland. The guy has a ton of tools, specifically offering the ability to get the bat on the ball (career 10.4 K% and 88.2% contact rate), speed (career 38-for-46 in stolen base attempts, 83% success rate), and both range and arm strength in the field. His only problem is the inability to put those defensive skills to good use, as Nunez has a knack for throwing the ball away and booting ground balls. It’s frustrating because the routine play gives him trouble, not the tough ones. Nunez is a career .272/.318/.384 (88 wRC+) hitter in 491 big league plate appearances (.292/.330/.393, 93 wRC+ in 2012) and probably is the most dynamic of the team’s in-house options given his speed. The Yankees, however, have kept him at shortstop exclusively since May in an effort to improve his defense. They’d have to scrap that plan to use him as an A-Rod replacement.
Unlike Nunez and Nix, the 25-year-old Adams has zero big league experience. In fact, he has zero Triple-A experience. The team’s third round pick in 2008 missed most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons with a brutal ankle injury, but returned this year to hit .306/.385/.450 (133 wRC+) in 383 Double-A plate appearances. A second baseman by trade, the Yankees shifted Adams to third base after A-Rod broke his hand in late-July. He continued to work on the position in the Arizona Fall League after the season. Adams is a contact-oriented right-handed hitter who has present gap power and will take a walk, and he’s always hit in the minors. Performance is not the issue. He lost a ton of development time due to the ankle injury and in fact, the team kept him on a four days on, one day off regimen this year. Making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues is tough but not impossible, though Adams would be doing it with only 50 or so career games at the hot corner under his belt.
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The crop of internal third base solutions is better than the internal catcher solutions, but these still aren’t guys you’d expect to find playing the hot corner everyday for a contending team. It’s easy to see why the Yankees would pursue someone like Youkilis, but let’s pretend for a moment that he’ll spurn the team to sign elsewhere.