The big story on Tuesday was the introduction of star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka. Despite the Tanaka signing, to go along with all the other big-name signings this winter, the Yankees still have numerous question marks around the infield, namely at third base. Sure, the team signed Kelly Johnson earlier this off-season, but, following the Tanaka press conference, GM Brian Cashman admitted to the Star Ledger's Jorge Castillo that the Yankees are planning to go with a platoon at third.
"At third base, right now, we have Kelly Johnson along with a cast of characters that are going to compete for that spot on the right side. We look for it to be a platoon situation, a lefty-righty situation."
Obviously, Johnson will fill the left-handed side of the platoon at third, even if he has played only 18 career games at the position. Johnson, a .244/.335/.424 (103 wRC+) hitter against right-handers, has fared slightly better against lefties over the course of his career (105 wRC+). However, since the beginning of the 2011 season, he has posted just a 73 wRC+ against lefties, which is the 13th-worst mark in baseball over that span. The Yankees are taking the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately route with Johnson and are hoping for the best.
Now, the "cast of characters" Cashman referred to that will help fill out the platoon at third are, in no particular order, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, and Russ Canzler. Cashman told Castillo about Canzler's defensive liabilities at third base, so, if I were guessing, he would currently be third in this little running. That leaves it to Nunez and Sizemore.
Nunez, as we all know, isn't good. In fact, he's bad. Very bad. So bad that he's worth -1.9 fWAR in his career, which spans only 270 games, or a season and two-thirds. His worst season to date was his most recent season, 2013, in which he was valued at -1.4 fWAR. Long story short, he doesn't hit much, doesn't walk much, doesn't hit for much power, is godawful defensively no matter where he plays, and is basically made of glass, yet here we are in 2014 talking about Nunez potentially becoming the right-handed portion of a platoon at third on a team that calls itself "championship caliber."
Then, there's Scott Sizemore. Sizemore was once a decent second base prospect for the Detroit Tigers, who eventually got traded to the Oakland Athletics in 2011. He had a really nice three months in Oakland in that 2011 season, but has twice torn the ACL in his left knee the last two seasons and has compiled just six plate appearances overall in that same span. Ninety seven of his career 157 games have come at the hot corner, and he has a career 118 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Theoretically, he would be a nice fit at third, if healthy. That, of course, is the big "if."
As of right now, I'm not quite sure who is the front-runner for this platoon job at third base. On the surface, it appears as though that Nunez and Sizemore are the top two candidates for this position, while the Canzlers and Zelous Wheelers and Yangervis Solartes of the world are trailing behind. Sizemore, unlike Nunez, isn't on the 40-man roster, though, so maybe you could say Nunez has the slight inside track on this, but someone can always be DFA'd (Nunez!) to clear a spot on the 40-man if Sizemore makes it. In the end, if Sizemore proves he is healthy, can play a solid third, and hit against some lefties a bit, he may just win this. This would then send Nunez either back to the minors or sent packing altogether, which is what we should all be rooting for in the end.