When the Yankees traded for Brendan Ryan earlier this week, the reaction was decidedly positive and it should have been. Ryan gave the Yankees what they most lacked at the shortstop position and his weak offensive makeup was more easily covered by the rejuvenated middle of the order than it would have been months back. But I still saw some people who thought Eduardo Nunez should still be the starter, as always citing his tools and “good hitting” as reasons to keep him as the primary shortstop while Jeter was out. I don’t want to make a big thing of this, so to those people I just to have to ask, what Eduardo Nunez are you watching?
Because the one I’m watching is barely worthy of an MLB roster spot let alone a starting job – albeit an injury-aided one – at a premium up-the-middle position. Offensively, defensively, pick one and there’s nothing Nunez has done this year to earn any kind of praise or pass from anybody. His .258/.310/.356 slash line, .292 wOBA, and 78 wRC+ are all career worsts and that’s compared to a .267/.315/373 career slash line in almost 800 PA that was already below average. Rate him using any modern defensive metric and he grades out as one of, if not the worst defensive shortstop in baseball, and he even mixed in some variety for old time’s sake last night by booting a ball at third. His -1.6 fWAR this season is 6th worst in MLB, a feat that’s almost impressive when you consider the fact that he’s done it in fewer than 300 PA.
And for all the talk about the tools, there aren’t a whole lot of them that register even with the eye test. His swing isn’t very smooth and he doesn’t use it to hit for any power, his arm is so inconsistent and his throwing mechanics so bad that the strength it has is rendered meaningless, his defensive positioning on groundballs is inconsistent at best. The only thing Nunez really does well is run and he can’t even manage to do that without having his batting helmet fly off his head damn near every time he’s running the bases.
If you want to play the age card, fine. He is still only 26 years old and should theoretically have room to improve. But he isn’t getting any better. He hasn’t since he debuted in 2010. Based on this year’s numbers he’s getting worse, so waiting around for everything to magically click when he turns 28 or 29 just isn’t smart. If you want to point to his injuries and say they’ve held him back, fine. I’ll grant that Nunez has had a hard time staying healthy. But shouldn’t that be another strike against him? He’s always pulling or tweaking something, he’s a shoo-in for the DL every time he gets hit by a pitch, and he’s always getting hurt in strange ways (hello, strained oblique in the on-deck circle). He’s of negative value when he is on the field and it’s never a guarantee he’s going to be able to stay on it.
I just don’t see how there can still be pro-Nunez people around at this point. He’s done nothing in his time in a Yankee uniform to earn any level of confidence that he can or will ever be a competent starting Major League shortstop. He can be a useful bench piece as backup infield depth and a pinch hitter/runner option, but that’s about it. If you’re still holding out hope that Nunez will turn into something better than what he is, please do yourself a favor and stop. Let it go, give it up, and move on with your life. Trust me, you’ll feel a lot better.