Jan
21

Eduardo Nunez and the writing on the wall

By
(Presswire)

(Presswire)

I can’t imagine this has been a comfortable offseason for Eduardo Nunez. The Yankees’ incumbent backup infielder and wannabe shortstop of the future has watched the team give Derek Jeter a raise, re-sign Brendan Ryan, sign Kelly Johnson, trade for Dean Anna, and sign Scott Sizemore. They’re still looking for infield help too, so there could be even more names added to the list. That’s a lot of moves involving players who play the same positions as Nunez.

Even before these moves, it was obvious the Yankees needed to prioritize middle infield depth this offseason. There was never a chance Jeter was leaving, even if he declined his player option. That just wasn’t happening. But, as we saw last year, he is not invincible and the team needed a better backup plan. That’s where Ryan comes into play. He can’t hit a lick but you can run him out there on an everyday basis if need be because of his slick glovework. Anna can play the two middle infield spots and has some nice on-base skills, plus he was basically free, so why not? Johnson and Sizemore are second and third baseman but two more infielders nonetheless.

None of this is good news for Nunez. Or at least it isn’t a vote of confidence, I should say. If the team had any real faith in his ability to play shortstop on a full-time basis should Jeter go down with another injury, they probably wouldn’t have given Ryan two years (and an option!) so early in the offseason. That just doesn’t strike me as something you do if you have a 26-year-old shortstop you believe in long-term. Am I wrong? If Nunez had shown any improvement with the glove — his throwing was way better early last year but that didn’t last — or more promise with the bat, finding a replacement for 2014 and 2015 wouldn’t have been much of a priority.

It’s not all bad news, however. Nunez did keep his job while others infielders like Jayson Nix and David Adams were non-tendered weeks ago. That’s better than the alternative. Cutting Nix was an obvious move given his projected salary ($1.4M) but keeping Nunez over Adams was not a given. Both players have a minor league option remaining and both will earn something close to the league minimum in 2014, so that stuff wasn’t a factor. The Yankees decided Nunez, who has a standout tool in his speed (and ability to make contact, really), was the one worth keeping. I know what Adams has done over the years and I’m not convinced the team made the wrong move, especially since Sizemore is almost the exact same player. Betting on the guy who can run and consistently put the ball in play is not unreasonable.

“[Nunez] has options and he could be a utility player. I wouldn’t want to start him [at third]. Regardless how he feels about it, I would want to find someone that I feel more comfortable with,” said Brian Cashman to George King earlier this winter, making it clear the Yankees have knocked Nunez down the depth chart a peg or two. There is only so much patience you can show with a guy who, even if everything breaks right, still projects to be a solid regular more than a star. In a perfect world, Jeter will play shortstop next year with Ryan backing him up and Nunez sitting Triple-A, rotating between second and short with Anna. That’s the best situation for the Yankees but a big step down for Nunez, who probably sees it coming.

Categories : Players

67 Comments»

  1. Andrew says:

    The writing on the wall says, “you aren’t good at baseball”.

  2. I'm a looser and a trader baby so why don't you kill me? says:

    Too bad we didn’t trade him when he had value. Cashman failed.

    • Algernon Blackwood says:

      Agreed. Not like we’d have any use for a young up and coming SS over the next few years.

      • WhittakerWalt says:

        Nunez is neither young nor up and coming. He is a dreadful excuse for a baseball player.

        • Algernon Blackwood says:

          He was back when he had trade value.

          • WhittakerWalt says:

            I must have misunderstood you then. I thought you were sarcastically saying we should have kept Nunez because we’d need a shortstop.

        • Bart says:

          Amen, He’s sooo error prone. This past season batting avg down and on base percent, right at the time His idol Arod was being investigated.

          Nova better be sharp this season or he’s gone, to the pen.

    • RetroRob says:

      The market never valued Nunez all that highly, so there wasn’t much of a return coming. Maybe he could have been thrown in as an extra piece. His value might have been more to the Yankees than as trade material. Yankee fans thought he was something more than he was.

      • nsalem says:

        We didn’t get Cliff Lee because the Yankee’s wouldn’t swap out Nunez for Adams when the learned the severity of the Adams injury so the Mariners must have valued him. I guess you can say Cashman made a mistake becaues he was very adamant about not parting with Nunez for a pitcher of Lee’s caliber.

        • RetroRob says:

          In retrospect, they could have thrown Montero into that deal too if it would have landed Lee! Sure, they wouldn’t have landed Pineda, which means, well, ummm…

          Nunez should have never been an obstacle to landing Lee. I wonder if there was some additional story there.

        • Ed says:

          Nunez never was the holdup, he was just an excuse from the Mariners to buy more time.

          The teams had already agreed on the trade. All that was left was filing the paperwork with Selig’s office. They asked for Nunez to stall for time once they realized Texas was likely to cave and include Smoak in the trade.

          The Mariners always wanted Smoak more than Montero. Asking for Nunez was just a delay to make one last attempt at getting Smoak. They got what they really wanted.

          Refusing to include Nunez had nothing to do with Nunez, and everything to do with Cashman realizing that he was being played.

          • nsalem says:

            Disagree. The deal was agreed upon with Adams and then it was revealed that Adams sprained anle was much more that originally thought. The Yankees most definitely had the oppuruninty to replace Nunez with Adams and balked. It was only after the Yankees declined to make the switch did the Mariners go back to Smoak. I never read anything to the contrary, If you have please show the surce.

            http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....ers-31784/

            • Farewell Mo says:

              Yep.

              Bet Cashman would like a do over on that decision.

              What puzzles me is they agreed to trade Montero, a top 5 prospect in all of baseball and you blow the deal up over Nunez, who was at best a starting SS for a 2nd division team and much more likey a utility player?

              That deal easily could have been the catalyst for # 28.

      • Mandy Stankiewicz says:

        Once upon a time the Phillies liked him, too.

  3. Algernon says:

    I hope I don’t hear ‘nooney’ out of girardis mouth all year

  4. lightSABR says:

    I’m still holding out hope that he’ll be useful next year, if only as trade bait. Here are his first half / second half splits from 2013:

    First half (125 PA): .215/.285/.271, 2 SB, 1 CS (52 wRC+).

    Second half (211 PA): .284/.321/.426, 8 SB, 2 CS (101 wRC+).

    If that improvement during the year is real – whether because he figured things out or just because he finally got healthy after all the first-half injury problems – and not just a SSS fluke, there’s no question Nunez can be a useful big leaguer.

    • I'm One says:

      Provided he can play passable defense at some non-1B IF position.

      • mitch says:

        Exactly. Average offense + terrible defense = below average player. I don’t see him improving on either of those, but i’m glad he’ll get a chance in AAA this season.

        • LitFig says:

          Yet there were people pining for Mark Reynolds (who is average offense and horrible defense).

          • lightSABR says:

            Probably on the theory that average offense and horrible defense is better than average defense and horrible offense, which was our infield on its good days last year.

          • 42yankee says:

            I was pinning for Reynolds. He is decent 1st and 3rd baseman. If you think 20HR’s in a season is average, where do you get your stats???? What happens when T-BALL TEX can only play part-time,have Jeter fill in as he got a big raise this year for his wonderful 17 games last season!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Does anyone really believe that JETER deserves a raise? If they do, it ain’t for his ability (anymore), it’s for sentimental value. Would any other team give a has-been $12 mil +++??? Jeter has been good but his time is over. At least Numez could be on the field, for more than 17 games in a season. He ain’t going to bleed the Yanks out of $12 mil. The Yanks need pitching!!!

        • lightSABR says:

          Two quibbles:

          1) 101 wRC+ is above average for a shortstop (average of 85 wRC+) or even a 3B (97 wRC+).

          2) The various fielding metrics agree that Nunez was a really awful defender at shortstop last season, but normally he hasn’t quite been “terrible,” despite the ugly errors. On the other hand, last year he was actually an average defender at third, though his awful performance at shortstop suggests that that’s just small sample size noise.

          Beyond those two quibbles, yes, I agree – it is unlikely that Nunez will ever be an above-average MLB player. But given the position he plays and his potential for above-average offense at that position, I think he has a future as a journeyman utility infielder if nothing else.

  5. Vern Sneaker says:

    A .270 hitter with little power who can steal a base but has a low OBP (doesn’t walk much)and is erratic in the field wherever he plays. I don’t see why so many people hate him so much (unreal expectations?) but there’s not much to love, either. He did show a bit of flash at 3B towards the end of last season so maybe if he has a strong ST and everyone else either gets injured or bombs we can start him there and see if it works out for a while. I don’t see him as worth keeping just for the bench.

  6. Chris says:

    Hey Mike,

    American writers haven’t picked up on this yet apparently.

    https://twitter.com/t_masahiro18/status/425641467646717952

    Translation- “It has been decided”.

  7. RetroRob says:

    He’s cheap, he has an option, and he has one outstanding tool, as Mike notes. So he lives to die another day. But that day will come.

  8. I'm One says:

    I agree with your opnion, Mike, definitely a step backward, knocked down a rung or two on the depth ladder. Too bad he hasn’t been able to put it all together. If he could simply play adequate defense with say a .270/.350/.395 batting line, with his speed, he’d be a real asset. Unfortunately, it would seem he’ll never play strong enough defense.

  9. FLYER7 says:

    Noony cant play SS, they wont let him play 3B and the OF experiment fizzled…guess he is a DFA candidate or option to SWB in March

  10. Polar Vortex says:

    I doubt Nuney is thinking anything at all. The dude just seems so clueless to me, running around with his helmet flying off and shit. Guy is just a care free spirit and also not very good at baseball.

  11. Baked McBride says:

    Tanaka’s reps just said that their decision is “Omaha”

  12. nsalem says:

    I have heard many times that Nunez showed great improvement at 3rd base last year. Jack Curry is included in this group praising Eduardo’s hot corner D. I don’t understand. He played there for 10 or 15 games I remeneber he did make a couple of nice plays, but he only had 30 chances and made two errors. Yes he did make a couple of nice plays but isn’t that way to small an aount to draw any concluscions.

    • mitch says:

      His offense will never be good enough for him to be a long term option at 3rd. I think becoming adequate defensively at SS is his only ticket to a solid MLB career.

      • lightSABR says:

        League-average 3B offense isn’t that great – only 97 wRC+. Nunez hasn’t ever performed that well in MLB over a full season, but the low-80s to low-90s numbers he has put up wouldn’t be a disaster at the position. There are teams with worse, including us last year.

  13. vicki says:

    holy cats, it’s winter out there.

  14. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    Hey Nunie can you play 1B???

  15. Eddard says:

    I disrespectfully disagree with everything written in the article. Nuney hasn’t been given a fair shake. Last year he finally had his chance when Jete missed the start of the season but then Nuney quickly went down with injuries. He got HBP twice, once in the ribs, which I know affected his swing. Poor kid never got a chance. With A-Rod out all year I’d move Jete to 3rd and given Nuney his shot at starting SS. With the Captain by his side he could be great.

  16. MD says:

    I disagree too. I think they see Nunez as the starting SS (with Ryan coming in late for defense) if Jeter can’t hack it. Nunez only seems like the odd man out if you think Jeter will come all the way back. I don’t think the Yankee front office is as confident in that idea as Jeter always seems to be — but they can’t say that out loud. I think Breduardo Nundan will be covering SS for the next two years. And spare me the Dean Anna stuff.

  17. dubinsky says:

    “perfect world” and “Jeter playing shortstop” do NOT go together. Jeter has done many things well, but defending at short ain’t one of them.

  18. mike c says:

    gee I wonder if axisa is a fan of nunez

    • WhittakerWalt says:

      What, exactly, is there to a fan OF? The way his helmet flies off when he runs hard (on the rare occasions when he gets a base hit)?

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