Archive for Eduardo Nunez
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.
All 30 managers meet with the media for 30-ish minutes during the Winter Meetings, and Joe Girardi held his Q&A session late this afternoon. It’s pretty typical of Yankees people to speak a lot of words but not actually say much, and this was no different. I don’t have the audio to share because the quality is awful, but here’s a recap…
- Girardi confirmed what Brian Cashman said yesterday, that A-Rod didn’t say anything about his hip until being pinch-hit for in Game Three of the ALCS. “His hips weren’t firing right. It wasn’t pain but he felt it was not the explosiveness … I was somewhat worried because he’d been through it on his right hip and you’d think he’d know what the feeling was like. It wasn’t firing the way he thought.”
- A-Rod went for an MRI on his right hip after the game, and when it came back clean Girardi kept playing him. He did acknowledge Alex “did look different than he did before he got hurt.” The team doesn’t know exactly when the injury happened.
- On losing A-Rod for the first half of next year: “It’s big. You go into an offseason and you feel you have to address certain areas and all of a sudden you get a little bit of a surprise. It’s a pretty big hole to fill, and it may not necessarily be (filled) with one person.”
- “I’m not sure,” said the skipper when asked about any tension in his relationship with A-Rod. “It probably answers a lot of questions — he wasn’t the Alex we saw before the injury. Now we have a reason, possibly why.”
The Yankees didn’t have much need for a utility infielder a few years ago, back when Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Robinson Cano were locks to play 150+ games every season. Things have changed in recent years as A-Rod has started to breakdown and Jeter started to receive more and more rest. Ramiro Pena did the backup infield thing for a while, but Eduardo Nunez wrestled the job from him by hitting .301/.350/.421 with three homers and 13 steals in 200 midseason plate appearances last summer while Jeter (calf) and A-Rod (knee) were on the DL.
Nunez, 25, opened 2012 as the utility infielder for the second year in a row, and he hit a solid .294/.356/.373 with six steals in the team’s first 31 games. He was playing primarily against lefties while either Jeter or A-Rod would spend the game at DH or even on the bench entirely. Nunez was contributing enough with the bat, but the problem was his perpetually sketchy defense.
He committed four errors in those first 31 team games: one at short, one one at second, and two at third. We’re talking routine plays too, like this throw. There were several other botched plays as well, including two on ground balls to third in the first two innings against the Rays on May 10th. Tampa scored two unearned runs as a result, plus they tried to bunt towards Nunez several other times throughout the game. Joe Girardi lifted him for defense after the fifth inning, and a day later the Yankees sent Eduardo down to Triple-A to work on his defense.
The plan was to limit Nunez to the middle infield in hopes that consistent playing time at the same spot would improve his glovework, but he responded with two errors in his third Triple-A game. Five days later he jammed his thumb and had to be placed on the DL. Nunez missed close to two months with the injury, so he only managed to play in 44 minor league games. He made five errors in those 44 games, all at shortstop. The Yankees recalled Nunez when rosters expanded in September, and he hit .289/.293/.421 with five steals in 41 sporadic plate appearances. He also committed three more errors, all at short.
Nunez served as the team’s primary DH against left-handers in the postseason, though he took over at shortstop full-time after Jeter fractured his ankle in Game One of the ALCS. He went 3-for-11 (.273) in five postseason games, most notably taking Justin Verlander deep in the ninth inning of ALCS Game Three. In three playoff games at short, he made one error that was inconsequential in the grand scheme of things. Girardi, as he had done during the regular season, lifted Eduardo for defense late a few times.
All told, Nunez hit .292/.330/.393 (93 wRC+) with one homer and eleven steals in exactly 100 plate appearances for the big league team in 2012. Anecdotally, most of his defensive issues seemed to come on routine plays. Whenever there was a hot shot or he had to range far for a ball and make a quick throw, he seemed to do fine. The defensive problems seemed to pop up most when he had time to think. The Yankees continued to give him chances and Brian Cashman says he views Nunez as a shortstop long-term, but he had an opportunity to cement his place in the team’s long-term plans this year only to throw it away. (Pun completely intended)
The Yankees were swept out of the ALCS by the Tigers almost a week ago, but it wasn’t until today that Joe Girardi conducted every manager’s annual end-of-season press conference. He said the team has yet to look back and evaluate the 2012 campaign just because everyone takes a few days off to be with their families and kinda get away from baseball immediately after the season ends. They’ll obviously evaluate the club top to bottom in the coming weeks. Here are the important notes from the press conference…
On Alex Rodriguez…
- “These were things that we evaluated a lot before we made our decisions,” said Girardi when asked about benching A-Rod in the postseason. “I don’t go back and second guess myself.”
- Girardi has not yet spoken to Alex (or any other player for that matter) about their relationship, but said “that will take place … it just hasn’t yet.” He isn’t worried about things being strained but acknowledged that actions have consequences and he will deal with them if need be.
- Girardi said he believes A-Rod was healthy in the postseason and was just struggling, particularly against righties.
- “Can Alex be a very good player again? Absolutely, I don’t have any question in my mind,” said the skipper. He praised A-Rod’s baseball smarts and said he expects him to be his everyday third baseman next season.
- Chad Jennings has Girardi’s full quotes about A-Rod if you aren’t sick of hearing about it yet.
On the playoffs…
- “Yes it was somewhat puzzling,” said Girardi on the offense’s struggles. He attributed Robinson Cano‘s disappearing act to being pitched well and just falling into a poorly-timed slump. He did acknowledge that Robbie was frustrated, which likely compounded the problem.
- Girardi said he doesn’t think the team’s unfavorable postseason schedule contributed to their lack of hitting, ditto all the tough games they had to play down the stretch in September. He basically said he doesn’t believe his team was worn out after a month of playoff-type games.
- “I hope not,” said Girardi when asked if he may have he lost the trust of some players by sitting them in the postseason. “I was making moves trying to win ballgames … I’ve been honest with our players and I will continue to do that, and I will do my best for this organization to win every game.”
- Girardi attributed the dull Yankee Stadium atmosphere in the postseason to a lack of scoring on the team’s part, nothing more. “I think our fans are very passionate about the Yankees (because) we see it even on the road.”
- “(It has) not taken place,” said Girardi when asked if CC Sabathia has gone to visit Dr. James Andrews about his elbow. He is encouraged by his ace left-hander’s performance in September and the ALDS and he expects to have him in Spring Training. “We’re always concerned that it’s maybe something more than you think it is … I don’t like people going to see doctors (but) sometimes people have to be evaluated to make sure everything is okay.”
- “We expect him to be back and playing for us next year on Opening Day,” said Girardi about Derek Jeter and his fractured ankle. He added that there are always concerns following a surgery, including Jeter pushing his rehab too hard and having some kind of setback.
- Mariano Rivera did throw sooner than expected this year but Girardi never did ask him if he will definitely return next season. “I don’t think you push a rehab like he pushed it unless you have some interest in coming back,” he said.
- There were no undisclosed or “hidden” injuries this year, so to speak. Russell Martin‘s hands are banged up but that is typical catcher stuff and isn’t a long-term concern.
- Both hitting coach Kevin Long (elbow) and third base coach Rob Thomson (hip) will have surgery this offseason, if you care.
On free agents and the team moving forward, etc…
- “There’s a lot of hunger and fire in him,” said Girardi about Andy Pettitte, but he doesn’t know if the veteran southpaw will return next year. He expects him to discuss things with his family before making a decision.
- He mentioned briefly that like Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda is among the players who will make a decision about his future and playing beyond this year.
- Girardi said he was unsure about Ichiro Suzuki coming back next year but he knows the veteran outfielder enjoyed his time in New York. He also praised Ichiro for making adjustments like playing left field and batting towards the bottom of the order.
- “I think this kid has something to offer us,” said the manager about Eduardo Nunez while also acknowledging that his role for next year is undetermined because other parts of the club are unsettled. “There is talent there, there is speed, there is excitement, he has a lot to offer.”
- “There’s a lot of players we have to decide what we’re going to do with, but I believe when Spring Training starts next year, we’ll be a championship club,” said Girardi, acknowledging that the team has a lot of players with open contract situations.
- He also spoke about the Yankees getting power from non-traditional power sources (specifically catcher, second base, and center field) and their ability of the offense to absorb the loss of a homerun hitter (i.e. Nick Swisher) if that happens this winter.
- Girardi acknowledged that the team has a busy offseason coming but doesn’t expect the chaos to be a problem. “Sometimes quiet is a bad thing,” he joked.
On the status of him and his coaches…
- “No. The pressure you see I put on myself,” said Girardi when asked about the pressure of entering a contract year. He doesn’t expect the team to talk about a new deal until his current one expires and he doesn’t anticipate asking for an extension before then either.
- Girardi expects the entire coaching staff to return next year but again pointed out that the team has not yet discussed everything.
- Girardi praised his role players for stepping up into more prominent roles than expected this year, mentioning Raul Ibanez, David Phelps, and Cody Eppley by name.
- When asked about Cano’s general lack of hustle down the line to first base, Girardi said he “will address with every player to play hard.”
Via ESPN NY: During a recent radio interview, Brian Cashman basically said he doesn’t see a role for Eduardo Nunez given how the team is currently constructed. “I look at Nunez and his value as a shortstop,” said the GM. “I don’t look at Nunez being valuable in an everyday role other than shortstop, and we have a shortstop. In terms of everyday status for Nuney, I don’t see one as long as Derek Jeter is sitting there … All the calls of putting him in left field, I don’t understand.”
Nunez had a nice (but brief) showing in the ALCS in place of the injured Jeter, going 2-for-6 with a triple, a homer, and a stolen base. He hit .292/.330/.393 (93 wRC+) with eleven steals in exactly 100 regular season plate appearances, though he was demoted to Triple-A in May because of his defense. Nunez makes a ton of contact (career 10.4% strikeouts) and has some pop and speed, so the offense is adequate for a utility infielder. The defense isn’t though, and the Yankees don’t have a place to play him full-time. It would make some sense to hold onto him as long as Jeter is recovering from his ankle surgery, but at the same time it also makes sense to trade him if the team truly feels he can’t cut it as a multi-position guy. He might actually be one of their better trade chips at the moment.
The Yankees have replaced Eduardo Nunez on the ALCS roster with Cody Eppley, the team announced. Jayson Nix was moving fine in the ALDS, so his left hip flexor strain appears to be a non-issue going forward. The Tigers have a very right-handed pitching staff, so the extra righty bat wasn’t imperative. Joba Chamberlain is also on the roster despite the bruise on his right elbow after getting hit with a broken bat.
The addition of Eppley gives the Yankees a dozen pitchers and just a four-man bench, and could be an indication that David Phelps will get the Game Two start tomorrow. It could also mean they’re starting Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia on short rest in Games Two and Three, respectively, and want the extra arm in case they can’t throw as many pitches as usual. Who knows. Right now the only official pitching plan is Andy Pettitte in Game One tonight.
4:12pm: After the game, Joe Girardi said he made the move for defense and that Nunez is fine. I don’t get it at all, but then again I don’t get a lot of Girardi’s moves.
3:02pm: Eduardo Nunez left this afternoon’s game in the sixth inning with what I have to assume is an injury. He drove a fly ball to deep center an inning prior and seemed to be fine. Derek Jeter took over at shortstop, meaning the Yankees lose the DH for the remainder of the game. I can’t imagine they put the Cap’n in for defense in a tie game. Jayson Nix is back in New York having an MRI on his hip flexor, so if Nunez is hurt they won’t have a backup middle infielder. Stay tuned for updates.
This has been a bit of a nightmare season for Eduardo Nunez, who had a chance to really establish himself as a useful player for the Yankees going forward. Instead, he lost his utility infielder’s job in mid-May because he struggled with the routine play, then suffered a thumb injury that cost him two months after being demoted to Triple-A. He resurfaced when rosters expanded in September and was used sparingly at first, but this past weekend he took over the shortstop position while Derek Jeter nursed his left ankle injury.
Nunez, 25, took advantage of the opportunity by going 4-for-13 (.308) with a double, a homer, a walk, and three stolen bases. He would have had another double had Jerry Meals not gotten in the way, plus he made a nice baserunning play on Thursday by aggressively advancing to third from second a routine ground ball to short. Eduardo Scissorhands did show up and whiff on a routine grounder that led to an insurance run for the Rays on Friday, but otherwise he played short quite well over the weekend. He even made two very nice plays going into the hole to his right and showing off his strong arm.
I have to think that both Nunez and the team are happy with his play over these last four games, as he provided some nice offense from the bottom of the lineup while adding some of the speed they’ve sorely missed since Brett Gardner got hurt in April. The Yankees have been a very station-to-station club these last few months and Eduardo’s energetic legs really did stand out. Add in his ability to make contact — just a 10.3% strikeout rate as a big leaguer — and you get a player that provides a much different dynamic than the rest of the lineup.
The Yankees are reportedly committed to using Nunez at shortstop and nowhere else following his defensive lapses as a utility player, hoping that sticking to one position will improve his glovework. With Jeter expected to return to his usual shortstop position later this week, perhaps as soon as tomorrow, Eduardo is suddenly a man without a place to play. Joe Girardi did indicate yesterday that he will consider giving Nunez at-bats as a DH against left-handed pitching, a move that seems beyond obvious given Andruw Jones‘ brutally ineffective second half. Frankly, at this point they should consider playing Nunez against right-handers as well. Raul Ibanez is 3-for-51 (.059) over the last month and looks completely worn out after spending way too much time in the field earlier this summer.
By no means do I think Nunez is a budding star or anything like that, but the players the Yankees have been using at DH most of the season have completely cratered in the second half. With Mark Teixeira on the shelf and not close to returning, the Bombers need as much offense as possible right now. Ibanez and Jones aren’t getting the job done, not even close really. Nunez doesn’t fit the typical DH profile — the big, lumbering slugger type — but he does have a productive offensive game built on contact and speed. The Yankees can use more of that and fewer hitless games from their regular DH combo down the stretch.
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Anonymous asks: Time for a post on tie breakers? My main question would be this: what happens if the Yanks and Orioles (or Rays) tie for the division lead, but have records good enough to be one of the Wild Cards? Will they do an on-paper tie-breaker or will they make them play a game? Since it’s so much better to be the division winner, I would think they would have them play. In the past it was a paper tie-breaker, but there was no negative to being the Wild Card. Now there is.
Under the old system, teams would only play a tie-breaker game if it was a situation in which one team would make the playoffs and the other would not. If two teams tied atop the division but were both going to the playoffs anyway, they didn’t bother to play a game and used (I think) head-to-head record to decide who was the division champ and who was the wildcard.
With the new system, teams will play a tie-breaker to decide the division winner even if both clubs are guaranteed to make the postseason, as they should. Home field for that tie-breaker game is determined by head-to-head record, but since the Yankees and Orioles split the season series, the game would be played in Baltimore because they have the better overall intra-division record (at the moment, still time to change that). The Yankees have to sweep the Rays this weekend just to tie the season series.
There would be a tie-breaker game if two teams tie for the second wildcard spot obviously, but I have no idea what happens if more than two teams tie for that spot. Given the craziness of the current races, there’s a very real chance we see a three-way tie this year. I’m not sure even MLB knows what they’ll do in that situation, but I’m rooting for the chaos as long as the Yankees aren’t involved. I wasn’t a fan of the new playoff system when it was announced and I still don’t like the one-game, winner-take-all aspect of the wildcard play-in game, but these last few weeks of baseball are going to be a lot of fun. Lots of tight races and big games coming up.
Nate asks: Is it me, or has Robinson Cano hit more opposite-field home runs this year than ever before?
He has, actually. The two-run dinger over the Green Monster on Wednesday was Cano’s fifth homer to the opposite field this season, a career-high. His previous career high was three, which he’d done multiple times (2006, 2007, 2009, and 2011). Robbie’s always hit the ball to all fields but almost all of his power has been to the pull side, which is not unusual at all. This year he’s starting to spray the dingers out a little more, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he’s set a career-high in homers during the year in which he’s showing the most opposite field power.
Nar asks: When does Eduardo Nunez become arbitration-eligible and did he spend enough time in the minors this year to delay it another year? Thanks.
If he spends all of next year in the big leagues, Nunez is going to be right on the Super Two bubble at two years and 30 or so days of service time. The cut-off for this coming offseason is approximately two years and 34 days, but it fluctuates year-to-year. Either way, Nunez won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season if he’s back in the show for good. Whether he’s a Super Two (and arbitration-eligible four times instead of three) depends more on the cutoff next year than anything else.
Reggie asks: Is it possible that David Adams could latch on with the ML team next season as a utility guy from the go? Is it too late to get Adams to play a corner OF spot when Brett Gardner and a re-signed Nick Swisher need an off-day? If Adams can play 3B, that’d be a boon for the team, especially if Eric Chavez retires/signs elsewhere.
It’s possible but I also think it’s unlikely. Adams hasn’t played a single inning at shortstop as a professional and has fewer than 40 games worth of third base experience, so the Yankees would still need another middle infielder on the bench. It’s not too late to try him out in the corner outfield, though a) I’m not sure how well he runs these days after the ankle injury, and b) that’s not exactly something you want him to learn at the big league level. I think it’s far more likely that Corban Joseph breaks camp in this Chavez role next year than Adams.
Len asks: In the never-ending parade of one-run loss horrors lately, how many did the Yankees actually lead in (and how many of those were blown by the bullpen?) and how may were failed comebacks?
Since the start of the four-game series in Oakland that seems to mark the beginning of this downward spiral, the Yankees have lost 28 of 50 games. Thirteen of those 28 losses came by one-run while another three were decided by two runs. Here’s the breakdown of the one-run losses…
- The Yankees had the lead at some point in eight of the 13 games. That’s an awful lot.
- The bullpen blew the game ten times (!) in the 13 games. That’s not just surrendering the lead, it’s also giving up the go-ahead run in a tie game. That’s also an awful lot.
- The Yankees had the tying run on-base in the seventh inning or later (my arbitrary definition of “failed comeback”) in seven of the 13 games for a total of nine failed comebacks. They had the tying run on-base in multiple late innings in a few of those losses.
One of those failed comebacks was the Mark Teixeira/Jerry Meals game, a comeback that was completely successful had the first base umpire made the correct call. What can you do though, can’t go back in time to change it. Anyway, a lot of these recent losses were really close and imminently winnable games, but the Yankees have just been unable to get over the hump lately. It’s frustrating as hell.
Via Jeff Bradley, infielder Eduardo Nunez will play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic after the season to make up for all the at-bats he lost this summer. He’s come to the plate fewer than 250 times between the Majors and minors this year due to a thumb injury that sidelined him for more than two months.
The Yankees wanted Nunez to play shortstop exclusively when they sent him to the minors in May and I presume they’d like him to do the same this winter. Clubs do have some say in how a player is used by their winter club, but I believe service time dictates exactly how much say. They play to win down there, a slumping player will sit even if he’s the best prospect in baseball history. Either way, Nunez needs to make up for the lost playing time and I’m glad he’ll do so this winter.