Eduardo Nunez is a poor defensive player. Maybe one day his inner gold glove will finally shine through, but at this stage, his defense remains a serious liability. Considering all the supporting evidence, such a statement shouldn’t be controversial. And yet, for some reason, the Yankees’ brain trust of Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi not only seem unconvinced, but, on the contrary, apparently believe he is capable of playing just about every position. Not satisfied to endure his erratic defense in the infield, the Yankees have now cast Nunez as an outfielder, which, predictably, has already yielded worrisome results.
The Yankees handling of Nunez is a classic case of a team desperately trying to shoe-horn a hitter into a defensive position so they can keep his bat in the lineup. The only problem, however, is Nunez can’t hit either (at least he hasn’t hit). In 431 plate appearances, the Yankees’ jack-of-all-trades has hit .268/.315/.375, which equates to an OPS+ of 84. In fairness to Nunez, his sporadic playing time might account for his subpar offensive numbers, but that doesn’t explain his struggles in the minors.
In six minor league seasons, Nunez came to the plate 2,772 times, compiling a line of .274/.318/.369, which is almost exactly the same as his major league output. At no point during his time on the farm has Nunez given any hint of developing into an above average hitter, so, once again, it’s difficult to understand the Yankees’ high expectations for him.
Another strike against Nunez is his relatively advanced age for a player with so many flaws. At 25, Nunez no longer qualifies as a prospect, making the Yankees’ commitment seem even more incongruous. Besides, how many players at his age, who have serious question marks about their glove and bat, manage to stick around in the majors, much less be given an important role on a championship caliber team?
Eduardo Nunez seems like a nice guy and good teammate, which makes it difficult to offer a scathing review of his performance. However, it’s hard to look at his body of work and justify the way in which the Yankees have opted to use him. Granted, he does possess certain physical abilities, such as speed and a strong arm, but none of them have been developed to a major league standard. So, instead of allowing him to flounder with the big club, the Yankees and Nunez would be better served by a return trip to Scranton. After all, if Nunez really is a diamond in the rough, as the Yankees seem to believe, he should be able to sparkle at triple-A (something he has yet to do).
Cashman and Girardi aren’t strangers to occasional bouts of stubbornness, so maybe their steadfast support of Nunez is really an attempt to avoid admitting a mistake? If so, that strategy seems more likely to backfire because their insistence upon forcing him into a role, any role, is only serving to tarnish his reputation and, potentially, lower his confidence. Maybe Nunez will eventually fulfill the Yankees’ high expectations, but right now, he is only digging his hole deeper. At some point, Cashman and Girardi will have to own up their mistake because, only then, will they finally be able to help Nunez start to overcome his.