Best case scenario, the Yankees infield needs almost no tweaking this winter. Mark Teixeira will return to first base, Robinson Cano will play second, and both Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter will stay healthy enough to play nearly every day at third base and shortstop.
But that’s not a given.
This season showed the Yankees that an aging infield requires more than four players. Jeter started 121 games at shortstop. Rodriguez started just 87 at third base. Moving forward means building a roster that can let those two get occasional days at designated hitter, while also allowing for the fact that one or both could go down with an injury at some point.
This season, Eric Chavez was the original backup plan at third — and he was helpful when he was healthy — but ultimately it was Eduardo Nunez who picked up most of the slack. Despite plenty of inconsistencies, both at the plate and in the field, Nunez gave the Yankees a glimpse of a young, productive player.
Is he enough to make the Yankees feel comfortable with their infield depth heading into next season?
Obviously the Yankees aren’t looking for a starting infielder this offseason, but they could find room for another Chavez type, an experienced player willing to take a reduced role and provide some insurance. Nunez, though, might be the key to just how aggressively they pursue that sort of player.
Is Nunez reliable enough to play two or three times a week on the left side of the infield, and is he productive enough to step into a starting role should either Rodriguez or Jeter — or Cano for that matter — go down with another significant injury?
Associated Press photo