The Giants should trade for Brian Dozier. The Giants should keep Joe Panik. If there’s a way for both of these things to happen, hooo, baby, then this particular baseball team would be a cookin’ and a hummin’. This has been your offseason update. Apologies for the technical baseball jargon.
And if this extremely unlikely scenario should happen, what would the Giants do with Eduardo Nuñez? No big deal. There would be at-bats for him. He would allow Panik to sit against tough lefties, and he would spell Crawford at short occasionally. Perhaps most importantly, he could play in left field. He’s appeared in 29 games as an outfielder in his career, you know.
There. Not a problem. So the Giants should check on Dozier, Evan Longoria, and Todd Frazier. Another infielder wouldn’t create a logjam, not with Nuñez’s ability to play left field, right?
Uh, not exactly. I noticed that Nuñez didn’t play in the outfield for the Twins in 2016, and that after two April starts in 2015, he played just an inning in the outfield in a blowout game in August after that. That made me wonder if his defensive performance was bad enough to make the Twins give up on the experiment.
It was. I watched every chance and play of his first outfield appearance of 2015, and it was bad enough that I didn’t bother to watch his second one. That isn’t to say that Nuñez can’t learn the position, especially if he were to focus on it in spring training, but the learning curve would be very, very steep. And painful.
The positives first: Nuñez has an infielder’s arm, which means it’s roughly 40 times better than Angel Pagan’s. He did pick up a nice assist on his first chance of the game.
The other good part of Nuñez’s defense in left is that
Okay, now to the negatives! Again, I watched exactly one game, so maybe he had an inner-ear infection that affected his balance. It’s not fair to judge a player on one game. But it’s not like I’ve ever been fair.
On his first touch of the game, Nuñez looked like a player who had never, ever, ever seen a baseball carom off an outfield fence.
Here’s an out that was made possible by the ball being hit 500 feet in the air, not by Nuñez’s superior reaction time.
I appreciate his calm refusal to make a rash decision. At the same time, that is not a clip that makes me feel confident in his ability to play the outfield.
Here’s something that didn’t show up in the box score as an error.
That was just Phil Hughes giving up a hit. Bad pitcher, bad! Let’s check in with MLB’s Statcast on that play:
Seems legit. But, okay, fine, so he didn’t have the best day in left. At least he didn’t make a silly, embarrassing error.
This doesn’t mean that the Giants shouldn’t purse Dozier or Frazier or any of the other ziers. Nuñez isn’t exactly a star who should dictate how a roster is built, and he would get plenty of at-bats against left-handers. He could also, you know, practice in the outfield in March and before games and become a better outfielder, as players are wont to do. He knows that every additional scrap of versatility would increase his value before free agency.
But considering the evidence from 2015, though, it doesn’t look like Nuñez should be a full-time option in left field. He should be used there for emergencies only, not as a part of the defensive blueprint. He could get better, but the Giants probably shouldn’t be the team that invests the time into that project.
In conclusion, here is a 1,000-word summation of Eduardo Nuñez in left field:
He’s a fine player and I’m happy the Giants have him. Just not in left field, so get those thoughts out of your head when thinking about the rest of the offseason.