In their quest for middle infield help this winter, the Toronto Blue Jays should pass on free agent, Eduardo Nunez
The Toronto Blue Jays are on a quest for middle infield help. GM, Ross Atkins made that very clear. I’ve already offered one idea (Dee Gordon) as well as one I like even better (Josh Harrison). If you include free agency, as well as the trade market, there are quite a number of options with varying degrees of usefulness to the Blue Jays. Some offer the ability to fill in as needed, others can be more of an everyday option should Devon Travis and/or Troy Tulowitzki miss more significant amounts of time.
One option that several people are calling for is Eduardo Nunez. And, it is not just those in Blue Jays Land. A Google search for Nunez yields sites from all over wondering if he would be a fit for their team. As much as other teams might want him, MLBTR expects that Toronto will be the winning bidder for his services with a 2yr/$14M deal saying: “he’s a useful super-utility player who has hit .296/.332/.443 in his past 1,290 PAs. “.
Those calling for his signature would tell you that he has the ability to play multiple positions, which is especially valuable to the Blue Jays. 2017 saw him play 213 innings at second, 447 innings at third, 123 innings at short and 163 innings in the (corner) outfield. He’s put up over 2 fWAR in each of the last two seasons and can handle the bat. It is easy to see why some people might want to bring him aboard.
I am not one of those people. Basically, the versatility that Nunez provides is almost negated by the fact that he didn’t put up a single positive DRS value in any position he played last year: 2B: -4, 3B: 0, SS: -5, OF: -4. Granted, 2017 was his worst defensive season according to that metric, but it is in line with his norm. Basically, Nunez is not a great defender. Sure, he could fill in, but is he that guy who the Blue Jays could ask to take a position on a long term basis? Probably not.
According to Fangraphs, Nunez is also coming off a season where he made the least amount of contact (83.8%) of his career. He’s also made less hard contact. Trades to the Red Sox, he came closer to his career wRC+ norm of 112. It’s still above his career mark of 97, but one has to wonder if it can be trusted. Or, was he helped out by a .333 BABIP? It certainly wasn’t his 3.7% BB rate.
Despite the above, Nunez had a good year in 2017, which could be used to snag himself a nice little deal this winter. The perception of him is rather favorable these days. The problem is that he was playing above his head. Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron explained it thusly: “no player had a larger gap between his results and his expected outcomes based on Statcast data last year.” Not a single player had outperformed their expectations than Nunez, a fact he’ll likely try to spin in his favour. What is more damaging to his case, though is this line from Cameron: “If his offensive results in 2018 look more like his expected results in 2017, Nunez will quickly play himself out of a job in the first year of his contract.”
The argument could be made that the Blue Jays already have a DH that has not really lived up to the contract to which he’s been signed. In fact, he’s only created problems for this team. Signing a guy who they have to hope will live up to his 2017, but is more than likely not going to and will be an anchor to the roster for a couple more years after that doesn’t exactly sound like a wise investment.
Nunez mightn’t be overpriced. In order to be “worth” the $7M AAV that MLBTR projects, he wouldn’t even have to put up one win. So, the expectations mightn’t be that high for what he would bring to the table in 2018. It’s just that there are better options out there.
You can call Eduardo Nunez a lot of things. You can call him a super utility player. You can call him overvalued. You can call him versatile. You can call him risky. You can call him whatever you like. But, please, don’t call him a Toronto Blue Jay.
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