The Yankees made what looked like a very minor move on Saturday, acquiring Reid Brignac from the Rockies for $75,000. Brignac is likely just a stop gap until Eduardo Nunez returns, but he does offer some tools that could keep him on the roster for a while.
For those that read daily, you probably know that I’m not a fan of Jayson Nix. No matter what he’s done in recent days, Nix currently has a 61 wRC+, which isn’t far off from his career 72 wRC+. Even if you fall in the camp that believes his bat is secondary to his glove, we still run into problems. The only infield position where Nix saves runs is second base, and Robinson Cano isn’t going anywhere. Though I hate using defensive metrics without a huge sample size, UZR/150 gives him a career -18.5 at short stop, and RZR a .767 (average is .824 for short stops), and his third base is rated just below average at -0.8, with a .698 RZR. (average is .685 for third base)
Much like Nix, Brignac isn’t a great defensive player either. His metrics at shortstop and second base are right around league average, and his third base has been below average. He also owns a career 60 wRC+, so again we’re thinking that we have a player with little bat and no value with the glove. However, Brignac is just 27 years old with just 769 major league plate appearances under his belt. In his 3,000+ minor league plate appearances, the infielder owns a .771 OPS and appeared on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list 4 times, the last being in 2010.
This isn’t to say that Brignac is some sort of prospect waiting to break out, his Triple-A numbers were never great, and it looks like his 20+ home run hopes were long lost in Single-A. With that said, Nix’s equally awful major league numbers come in nearly double the sample size of Brignac’s, and if we have to hold out hope for one of these players breaking out with either the glove or bat, I would take Brignac.
Brignac’s platoon splits will give him plenty of at bats against right-handed pitchers. This should help him improve upon his career .591 OPS. On top of that, he’ll be moving from Tropicana Field, a ballpark that is notoriously hard for left-handers to hit in, and move to Yankee Stadium, which is arguably the easiest ballpark for a lefties.
This doesn’t mean, kick Nix off the team, but it does mean that Brignac should get a ton of starts at short stop and third base when righties are pitching. Platooning these two around the infield will give the Yankees a lot of maneuverability, and a chance to see who should stick.
When Nunez and Kevin Youkilis return, the Yankees will have to make a decision. Although Girardi seems to have fallen in love with Nix, Brignac makes much more sense to keep on the roster. His left-handed bat complements both Nunez and Youkilis. It’ll depend on how he performs in small sample size, but for any left-hander that’s struggled in his first few years, playing in Yankee Stadium is a refreshing new home ballpark.