Pitchers and catchers report in exactly one week, so this seems like a good time to start looking at some of the decisions the Yankees will have to make in spring training. Let’s start with a decision that could significantly impact some other spots on the bench: What in the world to do with Eduardo Nunez?
Nunez is an interesting offensive weapon that might not have a defensive home. The Yankees prefer to keep him at shortstop and hope that his fundamentals catch up with his tools, but he has more immediate value as a utility infielder who can DH from time to time without sacrificing his potential to replace Derek Jeter at some point in the near future. That said, Nunez has another option remaining, which means the Yankees can ship him back to Triple-A to work on his defense while someone else helps out in the big league infield.
There are three options, really: 1. Nunez is sent back to the minors to play shortstop everyday. 2. Nunez is kept on the big league roster strictly as a DH and backup shortstop. Another infielder is kept to backup at second and third. 3. Nunez is kept on the big league roster as the only true backup infielder, freeing the Yankees to carry two reserve outfielders or an outfielder plus a left-handed pinch hitter like Dan Johnson (could be valuable to hit for the catchers in the late innings).
One reason I thought Russ Canzler might be pretty valuable is that he can play at least a passable third base. Carrying Canzler and Nunez together might free Nunez to focus on shortstop with a handful of appearances at second base, and the Yankees would still have another bench spot open for an additional outfielder or left-handed bat (no longer an option now that the Orioles have claimed Canzler). Ronnier Mustelier could create a similar option if he’s carried on the big league bench. Another guy I wonder about fitting into this equation is Corban Joseph. That’s a left-handed bat that’s shown some power and can play both second and third. Say the Yankees carry a bench of — just for argument’s sake — Nunez, Joseph, Matt Diaz and Chris Stewart. That would give them a backup catcher (Stewart), a platoon outfielder (Diaz), a platoon shortstop/DH and pinch runner (Nunez) and a backup 2B/3B who could hit for the catcher in the late innings (Joseph). Not saying that’s going to happen, only pointing out one way that Nunez’s value and limitations might impact a player who otherwise might be seen as not quite ready for the big leagues.
Associated Press photo