In the last few days, both Alex and Steve have touched on Eduardo Nunez making the transition to the outfield and how it could affect the outfield going forward. They’ve given some support to the idea, though I wouldn’t say either has given the it a glowing recommendation. Consider this my declaration of being firmly against the idea of moving Nunez to the outfield.
As I mentioned in the comments of Alex’s article yesterday, this isn’t necessarily going to be an easy switch. While being athletic certainly buys you a lot in the outfield, there is still a decent amount of skill involved. Nunez will have to learn how to track fly balls in a much different way than he’s used to. He’ll have to get used to fielding balls on the ground in a much different way than he’s used to (hell, he’s not exactly that great at fielding them now). He’ll have to get used to throwing much differently than he’s used to. All of that stuff takes time. To do all this, Nunez will need consistent playing time. The only way he’ll get that in the outfield is if the Yankees option him to AAA. If they do decide he’s going to play the outfield at some point, this is the tack that needs to be taken immediately. If not, the Yankees could end up with a Mark Trumbo situation…the only difference is that Trumbo has some power (though a much bigger hole in his swing than Nunez).
Even if the Yankees decide Nunez is an outfielder and they do decide to send him down with the goal of replacing Nick Swisher cheaply in 2013, I don’t think that’s the right idea. In Steve’s article over the weekend, I called it the definition of cutting off the nose to spite the face. Yes, the Yankees need to save money, but there are likely going to be wiser ways to not spend than using Eduardo Nunez as the replacement. While Nunez’s bat has some upside, I don’t think it’s that high and I’m not horribly confident that he’ll reach it. Like I’ve said, I don’t like his swing and his approach at the plate. I’m not saying he CAN’T reach his offensive ceiling, I just don’t think he WILL. It’s also worth noting that even if he does, unless he plays stellar defense in right, his bat will not play in a corner outfield position.
As for the rest of the outfield in 2013 and beyond, it looks like at some point there will be a hole that will necessitate filling. If the organization decides to let Nick Swisher go, right field will be need to be addressed. If they do re-sign Swisher, then it’s likely we don’t see Curtis Granderson in center field after his contract expires and that hole needs to be filled (all of this is assuming the Yankees are serious about the $189M thing). I wonder if the latter presents an easier opportunity to fill a hole than the former. After all, it’s presumable that Brett Gardner could slide over to center and the team wouldn’t miss a beat defensively. Of course, that just opens up a hole in left field, but that one is easier to fill than one in center. If we throw in the salaries, this might end up being the cheaper option as well. While Nick Swisher certainly won’t be all that cheap (I’m thinking at least $12-13M), it’s likely that Curtis Granderson will be a more expensive ($15-17M?) and will require a longer deal. There is definitely a financial argument to be made for keeping Swisher over Granderson.
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