Yankees plan on using Eduardo Nunez as their utility infielder

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As soon as we found out about the hip injury to Alex Rodriguez one of the most common questions at the time was ‘why don’t the Yankees just use Eduardo Nunez to replace him?’

It was a fair question. Even if they didn’t move Derek Jeter to third, which was never a realistic option on the table, they could just use Nunez at third. However, Yankees GM Brian Cashman shot that idea down pretty emphatically. Cashman insisted that Nunez was a shortstop only and would only be used in that position next year.

This meant that Nunez didn’t have a position. Jeter is still under contract for one more year with a player option for another after that and if Nunez was a shortstop only that meant there was no position for him. But what were the Yankees to do? Nunez is horrible defensively and only even occasionally flashes ability while playing shortstop.

But the Yankees have obviously reconsidered because, well, if they want to keep him they’re going to have to use him somewhere and A-Rod on the DL, even with Kevin Youkilis in the mix, they also need a third baseman pretty badly.

“If he is at the big-league level, he is going to have to,” Cashman told Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com. “We have everyday guys at other positions. If he makes our club, it will be at a utility role.”

“At an everyday basis, he is a shortstop,” Cashman later added. “If not, you could play him anywhere, except for catcher and first.”

Ultimately though, the team is not finished being constructed. They are still going to get an outfielder and probably a player or two to fill in at DH while A-Rod is out. Hopefully they get a catcher too, but Cashman will certainly keep his eyes open for solid bench pieces and he acknowledged that some things may change between now and the end of spring training  to the point where Nunez doesn’t even have a role on the team.

“(Nunez) could be a starting shortstop at Triple-A,” Cashman said. “He could be helping us on the big-league level. It remains to be seen how our team shakes out and how he looks in the spring.”

Needless to say, as bad as Nunez is defensively, this is a much better and more realistic scenario than the ‘Nunez-is-a-shortstop-only’ line that Cashman was going with earlier this offseason. With Jeter around that made it sound like he was as good as traded. Now it looks like they’re in a wait and see mode and are open to any possibilities.

By the way, Jayson Nix is also in the mix for a utility role with the Yankees. Nunez probably has a slight advantage over him though as he has slightly more pop in his bat and, most importantly, Nix has no spot on the 40-man roster.

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12 Responses to Yankees plan on using Eduardo Nunez as their utility infielder

  1. Yankee Man! says:

    The Team better do right by this player HE IS A STAR IN THE MAKING! forget the politics and play the kid.

  2. ccory says:

    I've always felt that Nunez is underappreciated, especially by the media. He was 3 for 11 in the postseason last year – and those 3 hits were a double, triple, and home run. He also stole a base, which he is very good at doing. That puts him among the best, if not the best, Yanks' performers in the postseason last year (not saying much but still worth noting). The guy would start for a lot of teams (probably at 2B rather than short). My hope is that he stays with the Yanks long enough either to take over for Cano next year or Jeter in a couple of years.

  3. bearfüht says:

    Nunez is a stud. NY needs to be patient with his development on the defensive part of the ball. He reminds me of a QB who has a different offensive coordinator every year, the way he's been bounced around the diamond.

  4. wally says:

    Agree with the previous comments. it seems shameful, really, and stupid too that Cashman continues to jerk this guy around. He is a force in the lineup– a very good contact hitter and exceptional baserunner with a streak of daring. And yet Cashman talks as if he has to "earn" his way onto roster. They Yankeed need his speed, dash and contact hitting. Nix is nowhere comparable as an offensive player.
    And the Yankees deserve blame for never developing Nunez at positions other than SS. He should have been given some reps at second and third while he was coming up. Instead, he was asked to learn new positions at major league level. Even as a sub-par defensive SS (and he could improve on that), Nunez IMO has great value.

    The Yankees' laxk of faith in their i own young players continues to hurt this ageing team. And it seems like it will be a growingly important issue as homegrown prospects become far more important under the new CBA and with Hal's self-imposed budget cap.

  5. klaus says:

    I thought the original argument for the "shortstop only" role was to steady his throwing arm, so he'd only have to learn to make the one throw. It sounded like desperation then, and this sounds like desperation now.

  6. shoes says:

    give the guy 500 AB's 280 15 to 18 HRs 40sb cant field …so what make him the DH certainly a better option than Ibanez / Hairston

  7. Mike says:

    I like what he brings to the table offensively. The kid is athletic so I just can't believe he couldn't learn to play the of. If not, he's a dh pure and simple.

  8. Tanned Tom says:

    Question: Is the team better defensively with Jeter at SS and Youkilis at 3B, or with Jeter at 3B and Nunez at SS? Also I know I must be missing something, but why is moving Jeter to 3B such a nonstarter? Seems like lack of range is his main problem, and playing 3B range isn't much of an issue. Why not give Nunez a chance (with Nix around for late game defensive substitution) and see what happens. Honestly, doesn't the team need to find Jeter's next position as soon as possible?

    • I think there are two reasons it's a non-starter.

      The first is that switching positions isn't an easy thing to do or a quick thing to do. It's going to take all Jeter has just to get back on the field in time for Opening Day and you can't just expect him to learn a new position while he's doing that.

      The other has to do with A-Rod. They don't know what they're getting back once he returns from surgery. There is still a chance, probably not a great chance, that he comes back and is still capable of playing third base. If he is, he's going to want to be out there. Plus there are still five more years left on his contract so if the Yankees can keep him at third, they'll want him there. Remember, A-Rod was actually among the best third basemen in the game in 2012 even in a down year. It's not exactly a deep position. So if there is a chance that A-Rod can come back and continue to play third, if not in 2013 then in 2014, there is no sense in having Jeter learn a new position only to have him switch back next year.

      Then there is the whole ego thing. This is probably not as big an issue since I think, if presented the right way, Jeter would probably be willing to switch positions. It wouldn't be easy though and it could just upset him. He's not just going to volunteer though since that could potentially cost him money on the free agent market (he has a player option, but is not technically signed for 2014).

  9. Tanned Tom says:

    You're right about the learning curve for a player coming off an injury, but if any player could do this it would be Jeter.
    As for A-Rod, I agree he is valuable when healthy. But with 5 years left on his terrible contract, as you pointed out, which option has him playing more, every day 3B with once a week at DH, or the other way around?
    The ego thing is an issue, even for such a team oriented player like Jeter. But there are 4 reasons I think he'd be open to it: 1) the move to 3B is the same one his idol Ripken made, 2) his ankle injury can be used as an excuse for the move, without critcizing his play at SS, 3) he surely must know that he must move sometime, doing it now could possibly prolong his career, and 4) somehow it might just appeal to him to bounce A-Rod from 3B.

    • Tanned Tom says:

      I'm unsure who would be better defensively, and Jeter would not give you the power at 3B you normally expect, but it would open up SS for a younger and more athletic player. The only reservation I have is Nunez, his inability to reliably handle routine plays is scary.
      My last question, the oldest SS to ever win a WS (I think) was 35, and yes it was Jeter. If no team has won one with an older SS, what hope do the NYY have of winning one with a 39 year old coming off ankle surgery?