Picture a world without Buster Posey.
No, it’s not pretty. But in this world, this awful, awful world, the Giants would have exactly one likely representative at the 2017 All-Star Game. That would be Eduardo Nuñez.
If it seems odd, consider that this was the exact situation that befell the Twins last year. And now they’re contending! So the Giants are right on track! But if you look at the traditional stats that voters/coaches/players look at, as well as the options the Giants would have in a non-Posey world, it would be Nuñez.
Nuñez is a pending free agent, and he is indicating that he wouldn’t be against sticking around. From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Rather than playing one position every day elsewhere, Nuñez said he’d rather remain a Giant even in a super utility role — he has played third, short, second, left and right since arriving in July — because he envisions the Giants winning again in the near future.
“We know this is going to change,” Nuñez said. “I prefer to stay here.”
First: I appreciate the sentiment, and I hope he’s right.
Second: I like Nuñez and think he’s a nice player to have on a baseball team. I think his 0.0 rWAR has a lot to do with his defense in left, which we’ve all agreed never to discuss again. He can help a team if used properly.
Third: I’m almost certain the Giants are going to be the best fit.
Nuñez is a late bloomer, which is great for him and inspiring to hundreds of fringe infielders waiting for their shot. It’s not great for anyone who wants to give him a multi-year contract after this season. He’ll be 31 next year, and as we’ve seen with Denard Span, it’s tough for a player to age gracefully when his value is inextricably tied to his legs. I could see Nuñez getting an NRI in 2019 a lot easier than I could see him being a key contributor on a contending team.
That written, I’m not exactly sure what the going rate would be for someone like Nuñez. Is the right comp Juan Uribe, who parlayed his success into a three-year contract? If that’s the case, I don’t even have to tell the Giants to forget about it. They’ve been manufacturing utility infielders down at the plant, and even if Nuñez has been hitting for a high average, they aren’t going to pay to see if he can continue to do so into his 30s.
And, as a reminder, if Nuñez isn’t hitting for average, he’s incredibly replaceable, even with his stolen base prowess. As a rule, teams shouldn’t feel comfortable paying for average-dependent players. The batting-average fairy drinks a lot, and her wand is merciless.
If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s that the Giants just can’t assume that Christian Arroyo is going to wrest the third-base job away from anyone. He’s still young, still raw, and he doesn’t have to be ready by next April (even if his glove will be). So if Nuñez reads the offseason landscape and decides he can live with a one-year deal, it’s certainly possible that the Giants would be interested. His ability to move around the infield and give the pair of lefties at the keystone some rest would allow the Giants to ease Arroyo in.
My guess, though, is that he’s playing his way out of a one-year deal. As such, it’s hard to see how he’s a part of the great reloading of 2017-2018. He’s been a fine player, and it’s easy to see what the Giants saw in him. But his defense and age make him an imperfect fit.
And, really, I’m just here for the B- prospects at the trade deadline, at this point.