This winter has been a little crazy for the Yankees, with Giancarlo Stanton now on the team, and Starlin Castro and Chase Headley long gone. These moves leave the team with too many outfielders and not enough infielders, but it’s hard to think of a solution on the free agent market that makes much sense. If Brian Cashman chooses to go with in-house options, it would be reckless not to secure a backup plan. What if Eduardo Nunez was that backup plan?
The Yankees have prospects Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, and Tyler Wade all hovering around Triple-A Scranton. It would be nuts to suggest that the team would simply go with two of these three out of the gate, though a spring training competition is not out of the question. This is where Nunez would come into play.
Now, Eduardo Nunez is still not a very good player, but he has improved since his days in pinstripes. He’s been around a league-average hitter the last three seasons, and he’s managed to hit double digit home runs in the last two. Nunez is still inconsistent in the field, but he seems to have tamed himself from his wilder days with the glove, as long as he sticks to second and third.
He is coming off a career-best year where he hit 313/.341/.460 on the season, but don’t let that high batting average fool you. He was only just above league-average in his age-30 season, so it’s hard to imagine anyone signing him to a long-term contract. If the Yankees can grab him on a one-year deal for a couple of stray millions, it’s an easy move to make.
Nunez will give the Yankees a veteran they can pit against their prospects in spring training, as well as a veteran bat at third base who can at least be a known quantity in case Andujar and Wade don’t work out. The Yankees can play Nunez at third for a few months, and if a better option comes along, whether in-house or not, he becomes an easy piece to jettison.
The reason the Yankees don’t want to sign anyone better is because they don’t want to promise multiple years to anyone at that position. In one more year Manny Machado will become a free agent, and though it’s stupid to assume players will sign with New York, it would be equally as dumb to miss out on a generational talent because someone like Todd Frazier or Mike Moustakas happened to be on the market a year sooner.
Maybe the team was better off going with Chase Headley for one more year before his contract ended, but that’s not what ended up happening. Now you look to add a stopgap at the position for half a year, and then you either promote from within or make a trade at the deadline for a rental. This is what it looks like to think about the present and the future at the same time.
It’s highly unlikely that Eduardo Nunez is a solution to anything for the Yankees, but if he can provide any bit of the player who hit .321/.353/.539 in the second half for the Red Sox last year, this whole hypothetical gambit just might be worth it.