Alex Rodriguez has missed more games the past two seasons, but Derek Jeter is not worry-free. As this spring has shown, Jeter is at the age where just about anything can come up tight on occasion. Another known fact is that Jeter is not a very good fielding shortstop. That being the case, shouldn’t his insurance policy be a better fielding shortstop? Wouldn’t you want a slick fielding guy to be a defensive replacement late in a game? Eduardo Nunez is not that guy. As questionable as Jeter’s defense is, Eduardo Nunez is easily worse. In my household, we call him, “Clank.” And the wife and I hold our breath every time a ball is hit in his direction. Jeter may not have any range, but 99 out of a 100 times, he’s going to make the play hit right at him.
Obviously, Nunez is a better option than Ramiro Pena. Pena looks more polished in the field, but he has limited range and has continually shown that he cannot hit major league pitching. So Pena is not an option at all. Nunez, who scored an amazing defensive runs of -15.7 in 2011 (Jeter was at -6.5) also made twenty errors between short and third in just ninety games. But at least he can hit, right? But can he? His stolen base record looks pretty with his 22 steals in just 28 attempts, but otherwise, he is just ordinary. He has occasional power but swings at 34 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. And an amazing 23.9 percent of his balls hit in the air were the infield pop up variety. The overwhelming feeling when looking at Eduardo Nunez’s offensive statistics is that he is ordinary at best.
To get back to our insurance policy theme, the Yankees’ infield policy means weaker defense without the benefit of better than decent offense. That is not the kind of policy that is ideal when you have a gentrified infield. Oh sure, there is Eric Chavez who can supposedly back up third if needed. Don’t get me started on that topic. Let’s suffice it to say that he’s not ideal. In a perfect world, if your insurance policy is just ordinary as a hitter, you would like him to be decent in the field. Nunez is not. He kind of looks like Alfonso Soriano in the infield, does he not?
But who else is there? Short of a trade, perhaps there isn’t another option. Doug Bernier, the 32 year old, journeyman infielder has had a great spring. If he could be decent offensively, he is a slick fielder who made only four errors at short in the minors last season (81 games) and has logged over a hundred games in his minor league career at second and third as well. Unfortunately, his history also shows that he is below replacement as a hitter. But somehow, even that seems more appealing since the guy can man his position so well. You want a player that either prevents runs or adds to the runs scored. Bernier would probably lose as many runs offensively as he saved defensively.
But perhaps even that is not a bad thing. The Yankees’ utility guy the last two seasons, Eduardo Nunez, has scored -0.1 and -0.6 fWAR scores the last two seasons. So Nunez is giving back more than he is adding. Perhaps a guy who breaks even would be a much more welcome brand of insurance. Then again, this is probably all a moot point as Eduardo Nunez will most likely head north with the team in April.