Nov
21

Utility infield spot already starting to take shape

By
(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)

(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)

Thanks to all the injuries, the Yankees went through a small army of infielders this past season. They went internal with Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, David Adams, and Corban Joseph before going outside the organization for guys like Alberto Gonzalez, Chris Nelson, Luis Cruz, Brent Lillibridge, and Reid Brignac. Seven different players started a game at shortstop for New York in 2013 while ten (ten!) started a game at third. Eventually Brendan Ryan and Mark Reynolds helped stabilize things.

All four infield spots are a question mark right now for various reasons. Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter are returning from major injury, Robinson Cano is a free agent, and Alex Rodriguez may or may not be suspended. Nunez, Nix, and (to a lesser extent) Adams played fairly regularly last season and failed to impress, at least impress enough to solidify their standing as viable infield options should the need arise in 2014. Adding infield depth will be a priority this offseason and so far it’s the only area the team has addressed.

Since re-signing Derek Jeter to a new one-year contract, the Yankees have reportedly agreed to re-sign Ryan and acquired Dean Anna in a minor trade. Ryan won’t hit at all but his defense is among the best in the game and allows him to be a net positive if playing everyday. He’s not great, mind you, but you can run him out there on a regular basis and get some return. The 26-year-old Anna is a lefty bat with little power but quite a bit of on-base ability, plus he’s capable at the two middle infield positions. With all due respect to Ben Paullus, the Single-A reliever who went to the Padres in the deal, Anna cost basically nothing.

To me, bringing back Ryan and adding Anna for depth is an indication the Yankees have either grown tired of Nunez or will non-tender Jayson Nix prior to next month’s deadline. Maybe both. Nix is projected to earn $1.4M through arbitration next year and although I think he’s perfectly fine as a rarely used backup infielder, that is a bit pricey for what he brings to the table. Maybe he’d be worth keeping at that price in a luxury tax-free world. Nunez has been in the big leagues for parts of four seasons now and he hasn’t hit (86 wRC+) or shown any real improvement defensively. There’s only so much patience you have have with someone who projects to be an okay player but not a star if things go right.

Nunez appears to have a minor league option remaining and can go to Triple-A Scranton next season, so the Yankees won’t have to worry about finding a spot for him. I doubt he would fetch much in a trade anyway. The club has him, Ryan, and Anna to serve as depth behind Jeter at the moment, though the obvious caveat is that the offseason is still very young. Nix could return on a minor league deal (I would like that very much, actually) but you couldn’t blame him if he sought out another team that offers more of an opportunity if he is non-tendered. As a veteran guy who’s been in the show a while, Ryan sits atop the utility infielder depth chart and will open the year on the bench if the Cap’n is healthy enough to play shortstop. Anna and Nunez are behind him.

Regardless of what happens to A-Rod, the Yankees have to bring in a capable third baseman because he’s going to miss time one way or another next season, either through suspension or injury. That still has to be done. Middle infield depth was another priority this winter given the uncertainty surrounding Jeter following his self-proclaimed nightmare season, and early on they’ve addressed that with the Ryan and Anna moves. Nix became expandable and so did Nunez, but there’s no sense in dumping him until absolutely necessary since he’ll earn something close to the minimum and can go to Triple-A. The Yankees have a lot of business to take of this winter, but they’ve already made a series of moves to upgrade the utility infielder spot and add middle infield depth.

Categories : Bench
  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    Thank Mo that’s taken care of…Hard part is over

  • I’m One

    I have to keep reminding myself that it’s still early in the offseason and it’s not important to have Cano re-signed just yet. That and the A-Rod situation are still the big concerns.

    I’m pleased that Ryan has returned (although I would have favored a deal for less than $2MM if they plan to bring in a true starting SS, which we don’t really know yet) and Anna seems to be a much better (yet possibly slightly less positionally flexible since I haven’t heard of him playing 3B) than Nunez.

    Gotta get 3B and 2B resolved. Let’s see how things play out over the next month or so.

    • ropeadope

      How many major league at-bats does Anna have under his belt?

      • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead

        A grand total of 0.

        • ropeadope

          This is my point (although the question was rhetorical). I think it would be wise to see what Anna can produce at the major league level before assuming he’s a definitive upgrade to Nunez (who I still believe has a future with the organization).

          • Robinson Tilapia

            26. Can get on base. Plays multiple positions. Almost seems a bit Adams-like, but could probably do better at second and short than post-injury Adams would?

            On a really, really positive day, I’d say I could live with Adams as the corners backup, but it’d have to be one of those days where I woke up to Anna Paquin getting an at-bat ifyouknowwhatimean.

            • Caballo Sin Nombre

              Ability to get on base bodes well for the jump, I think.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                Could be a real role player. If he’s hitting well in AAA, you’ll hear folks talk about him the way they were clamoring for a Thomas Neal last year. We diss them when they’re signed, then want them when they’re hitting.

                Every team has guys like this that just go through the system and then don’t have a spot.

      • Robinson Tilapia

        About as many as Anna Benson, Anna Gunn, and Anna Karenina.

        • ropeadope

          No love for Faris, Paquin, or Kournikova?

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Oh, VERY much love for Paquin.

    • TheEvilUmpire

      Checked his baseball reference… Dean Anna’s played every position but C and CF. Not sure how proficient he is at the non-middle-infield position, but potential as a super-sub LHB with OBP skills? Not too shabby for a 24-year-old reliever in A-ball.

  • Yankees fan

    I can’t wait the yankees to actually make some substantial moves

  • jim p

    Nunez, I’d bet, is still in the Yankee plans. He does have rotten overall numbers, but then again, he’s only had two stints where he played 40 or more games in a row (more or less) and in those times he was a .290ish hitter.

    I expect they’ll try to convert him to primarily 3B, where he wasn’t so miserable defensively in his brief time at the end of 2013. I can see the team giving him a shot just to pump up his value for a trade down the road.

    And look: A-Rod’s getting suspended, and it ain’t going to be for just 50 games. All this PR crap he’s doing is because he knows the evidence nails him as being a long-time cheat and creep, who helped other people to cheat. None of this ‘take you to court’ crap is going to trump the MLB arbitration process, either. You can bet his teammates know it now, too. Especially Cervelli.

    So let’s not pretend that 3B is an open question. We’l need a real full-time starter there.

  • gageagainstthemachine

    Nix seems like a really decent guy. If he’s not back with the Yankees, I hope he has success in an appropriate part time role elsewhere. What was asked of him last year was unfair and the expectations of him once thrown into a daily role in multiple positions was even more unfair. It’s not his fault he isn’t a All-Star baseball player that was expected to fill multiple All-Stars’ shoes. I feel like he took a lot of really undeserved heat by the fans because of what was forced upon him. No way in hell he saw that coming or wished for it. I’m sure he knows very well the limitations of his baseball abilities and what his ideal role should be and would admit that he was way not in that ideal situation for himself or his team last season.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      He’ll be fine. Journeymen like him have a role in this sport and wind up having multiple lives.

      • I’m One

        Yeah, I’m sure someone will pick him up. I just don’t see him being worth $1.4M or so he figures to get through Arb. Poor Jayson. He;ll have to survice on something like $800 – $900k (possibly a bit more). Wish I had the skills necessary to take home that kind of pay.

        • jim p

          But remember, that’s more a less a 24/7 job for 8 or 9 months of the year. And you only do it for so many years. After your career is over you’re qualified for not much else.

          Still, $800K/yr for just 5 years would help us all out quite a bit if we budget smartly.

          I wonder if pro athletes get special consideration on their taxes, given their careers are relatively short?

          • ropeadope

            Not since income averaging was repealed.

          • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

            Not only do they not get advantages, they get their butts handed to them on state taxes. To add insult to injury, the financial advisor and tax industries prey on them because they are often young, unsophisticated, and don’t even have the time to learn to supervise experts they’ve hired.

            The player unions’ make it even harder by having specific membership/endorsement requirements for advisors.

            /endbitterrant

  • Handsome B. Wonderful

    Add Yamaico Navarro to the list: http://bit.ly/yamaiconavarro

    • Robinson Tilapia

      One of my all-time favorite baseball names.

  • your mom

    Mark Reynolds for 3B anyone?