While the Red Sox battled the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night, General Manager Dave Dombrowski executed his first deal of the 2017 trade season; acquiring multi-position maestro Eduardo Nunez for a pair of low-level pitchers: Gregory Santos and Shaun Anderson. So, how does Nunez fit into this Red Sox team?
Nunez will be joining his fourth major league team in this, his eighth major league season. He has been a consistent hitter since joining the Minnesota Twins in 2015, posting a line of .308/.334/.417 with 21 doubles and 18 stolen bases. With the exception of last season – when he knocked 16 balls out of the park – Nunez has never hit for much power, with only 38 homers in his MLB career. While Nunez has played mostly third base for the Giants this season – with 47 starts at the hot corner in his 76 games played – he has played more at shortstop in his career. He has 225 starts over eight big league seasons at short. Nunez has also notched playing time at second base, left field, right field, and designated hitter – with his 20 games this season in the outfield a career high. Nunez will be a free agent at the end of the 2017 season.
In order to acquire the utility man, the Red Sox served up a pair of right-handed hurlers to the Giants. The 22-year-old Shaun Anderson – drafted in the third round out of the University of Florida – is likely the main catch for San Francisco. In his first full season in professional ball, Anderson has started 18 games between A-Ball Greenville and High-A Salem, going 6-3 with a 3.42 ERA and a 1.151 WHIP. In 97 ⅓ innings this season, Anderson has struck out 85 and walked 29. Of his 83 hits granted, 28 have gone for extra-bases (17 doubles, three triples, eight taters). He also has failed to hold on runners, with 20 of 22 stolen base attempts being successful.
The 17-year-old Gregory Santos has spent both of his professional seasons with the Red Sox Dominican Summer League affiliate. In his first season, Santos was lit up by opposing batters; allowing nearly six runs per nine innings, giving up 40 hits in 41 innings while walking more batters (26) than he struck out (25). This season Santos has shown improvement over seven starts, recording a 0.90 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP. While he is trending in a positive direction – striking out 24 in 30 innings while only allowing 21 hits – Santos has still issued 15 free passes.
Is two months of Eduardo Nunez worth the price? At this point, Santos must be considered a lottery ticket for both sides – and the rate of payoffs on DSL pitchers tends to be quite low. So, analysis hinges on the appraisal of Anderson. While Anderson has certainly been quite good in his first year, he likely ranks below Jalen Beeks, Dedgar Jimenez, Mike Shawaryn, Bryan Mata, and Jason Groome among starting pitching prospects in the Red Sox system – not to mention Hector Velazquez and Brian Johnson, who already have seats on the shuttle. All trades have risk, but obviously the Red Sox feel the risk of a DSL lottery ticket and a high-A prospect is worth the potential rewards in this case.
The big question, however, is where does Nunez, a jack-of-most-trades, fit into the Red Sox lineup – especially with regards to the recent promotion of Sox top prospect Rafael Devers? Are Devers’ days already numbered?
While the Red Sox have been wretched offensively at third base this season – with dismissed Pablo Sandoval’s OPS of .622 out-pacing the offensive “contributions” of Deven Marrero, Josh Rutledge, and Brock Holt – their production off the bench has been equally murky. This is largely due to the Marrero, Rutledge, and Holt trio, in addition to Chris Young’s less than stellar season. Upgrading an obviously deficient bench with a starting quality player was, perhaps, the cheapest way to upgrade the team’s offense.
Nunez has played five positions this season for the Giants and his versatility would allow him to play nearly every day for the Red Sox. He can spot both Xander Bogaerts at short and Dustin Pedroia at second base. He can start in the outfield on days when Chris Young is a poor option, or is called on to DH against left handed pitching. And, of course, he can serve as a platoon partner for whomever the Sox decide is the primary third baseman. Which should be Devers, as he is one of the few players that has real potential to impact a game with his power.
When Nunez arrives at Fenway on Friday, the Red Sox will have to make a pair of moves to place him on the squad, as both the 40-man and the 25-man roster are at maximum capacity. With no one currently on the disabled list eligible for a transfer to the 60-day DL, it may finally be the end of the line for reliever Luis Ysla in Portland. Alternately, the Red Sox – now flush with utility infielders – could remove Rule 5 pick Josh Rutledge from the disabled list and offer him back to the Colorado Rockies to ease their roster crunch.
As for the 25-man roster, the easiest move is to send Deven Marrero back to Pawtucket. The acquisition of Nunez is likely to take away most of Marrero’s playing time – with Brock Holt taking the rest – and Marrero is one of the few members of the squad that has options remaining. It doesn’t hurt that the soft-hitting Marrero has only delivered three singles in 22 at-bats since the all-star break.
However, the Red Sox could also decide that Xander Bogaerts could use ten days off to help his injured hand and send him to Fort Myers for a short DL stint. Since being hit in Texas on July 6, Bogaerts has seven hits in 47 at bats with his OPS dropping from .818 to his current .764.
While the trade for Eduardo Nunez does not solve the Red Sox major offensive problem – hitting long balls – it should give them another consistent bat with doubles power that could help them generate some offense. With no major prospects going westward for Nunez, it’s a trade that will help in the short term and is likely to have few repercussions for the future.
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