Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yanks See Nunez As Jeter's Sees Heir

From Bill Madden (hat-tip to Was Watching):
Now that Cliff Lee has proven to be postseason beatable after all – albeit one series too late for the Yankees – it is worth reviewing the behind-the-scenes circumstances that made him a Texas Ranger. It wasn't just the Rangers giving in on first-base prospect Justin Smoak at the last minute and trumping the Yankees' trade-deadline offer to the Seattle Mariners for Lee that centered around slugging catching prospect Jesus Montero.

No, the real deal-breaking prospect, as far as the Yankees were concerned, was infielder Eduardo Nunez. Yankee GM Brian Cashman was willing to sacrifice Montero - despite all the scouts' raves about his power potential - because he has a surplus of catchers. Nunez, on the other hand, is viewed by Cashman as a big part of the Yankee future which is why, when Mariners' GM Jack Zduriencik asked for his inclusion in the deal as a substitute for injured second-base prospect David Adams, the Yankee GM essentially said: "Enough!" Turns out Zduriencik was right about Adams being potentially damaged goods.... but in asking for Nunez he was asking for the player the Yankees are now viewing as Derek Jeter's successor. Though no one in the Yankee high command is ever going to even speculate about the future after 2011 - especially with the very sensitive contract negotiations with Jeter about to get underway – but it's becoming increasingly clear the plan is to phase out Jorge Posada next season when his contract expires, opening up the DH slot for Alex Rodriguez, thereby allowing Jeter to move to third, making room for a more athletic shortstop, which would be the 24-year-old Venezuelan, Nunez, who hit .289 with 50 RBI and 23 stolen bases in 118 games at Triple-A Scranton this season.

So what's the deal with Nunez? Is he the real deal? Here's what a couple of scouts had to say about him...

"Nunez is your consummate 'tools' guy," said the first scout. "He's got a plus arm, he can hit, has some pop and can run. He has a tendency, however, to get lackadaisical in the field and he needs to learn not to chase so many pitches."

"Do I think Nunez can be a 'plus' major league shortstop?" asked the other scout. "Yes, but he's still got a lot to learn. The ability's there. Will he perform to it? I don't know. I'm just not sure about the makeup. (Robinson) Cano was the same way when he was that age, and he grew up. It says a lot for Nunez that he batted third most of the season at Triple-A. He hit a lot of mistakes which he won't see that much of in the majors."
I knew the Yankees had high hopes for Nunez but this is somewhat surprising. However, with no real good SS options hitting the FA market any time soon, Nunez may be their best bet.

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