The Yankees have played their last game of the 2013 season and now it's time to turn to the offseason where they (hopefully) look to make upgrades and answer some questions. From the uncertainty of Derek Jeter's role next year, to the result of Alex Rodriguez' appeal, to Mark Reynolds' and Brendan Ryan's respective impending free agencies, the left-side-of-the-infield picture looks very unclear. However, in the season's final month, Eduardo Nunez has tried his best to clear up that picture, at least just a little bit.
In the month of September, Nunez hit .295/.321/.487 with a 119 wRC+ in 81 plate appearances. This is coming primarily at third base, at least in recent days, where he has looked, dare I say, like an actual Major Leaguer. Perhaps my eyes are deceiving me (and this could be the case; they do that a lot), but he hasn't looked too shabby at the hot corner since Ryan has taken over the reins at shortstop. This has led some wondering if he can handle the position full time.
So, that begs the question: Can Eduardo Nunez handle third base full-time in 2014? Short answer: No, probably not. In fact, I would be pretty upset if they gave him the reins at the hot corner. Even with his strong September, he is hitting just .260/.307/.372 with a weak 82 wRC+ in nearly 340 PA's, and is a career .266/.312/.376 hitter in his career. He also has no previous track record of playing well on defense, regardless of position, so his solid play at third, to go along with the bat, could all be just a mirage.
With that said, I am afraid the Yankees will at least consider giving Nunez a shot at third next season. In fact, he started the final 10 games there and 12 out of the last 13 to end the season. Maybe they just don't like the other options, but they're kidding themselves if they think he can be a regular at the hot corner. This is someone who has a career 85 wRC+, where the league-average third baseman hits to a 97 wRC+. His defense at the hot corner (-29 UZR/150, -2 DRS) is also still left to be desired, albeit it comes in a small 525 inning sample across four seasons of play. He is still pre-arbitration eligible, so he'll still come very cheap, but the Yankees could seriously do better if they want to fill their void at third.