It’s that feeling when the sun comes up after a long night… in Antarctica. It’s the time you took your first solo drive in a car… after failing the test nine times. I could clog the front of this piece with a billion of these, but the point is we’ve come out of the shadows, friends. The offseason is not only over — the Sox are in Fort Myers after all — but the Red Sox have finally signed someone whose name does not rhyme with Ditch Doreland!
[crawls out of well]
How about that! That’s not even a question, it’s a damn statement. How about that! I mean who even cares who they signed at this point. The name of the guy isn’t even important. Okay, fine, I should tell you who it is. It’s Eduardo Nunez. The Red Sox signed Eduardo Nunez to a one-year contract with a team option for a second season.
[marching band walks through]
[deeply breathes oxygen]
[marching band walks through again]
Oh god… oh god… it’s so… so good.
So here’s the thing. As I write this on Thursday night, I don’t know how much Nunez is getting paid. But, really, honestly, who gives a crap? It could be $4 million or it could be $12 million and it really doesn’t matter to anyone who isn’t Eduardo Nunez, his agent, his family, his heirs, their cats, or anyone in the Red Sox ownership group. After that, doesn’t matter. The difference between those two semi-randomly chosen numbers is a lot of actual money were we talking about real people, but this is baseball and these are baseball teams. The only difference to the Red Sox would be if it impacted their ability to bring in other talent, and the only way that would happen would be if the team was committed to not spending above the luxury tax threshold. But they’re not! Money schmoney! Whatevs! They’ll sign J.D. Martinez and, heck, Jake Arrieta too.*
*Which honestly they should do because why the heck not?
So it doesn’t matter what they’re paying him, and they have, according to reports, a second-year team option, so if things go well this year they can bring him back for 2019. If not, they don’t have to. That’s the good kind of option if you’re the team and/or you’re a Red Sox fan (maybe less so if you’re a player).
So far, so good for the Sox! They did a thing! But let’s talk about how Nunez fits on to the roster. His most obvious place is at second base while Dustin Pedroia convalesces from knee surgery. The Sox’s star second baseman could return early in the season, but this is major surgery he’s working his way back from, so you never know. It’s entirely possible it takes longer, and longer could mean months, and baseball season is long, but it’s not that long, ya know? A Sox team minus a legit starting second baseman could be dead and buried by the time Pedroia’s knee is up to the rigors of the sport. So Nunez will likely be first in line there.
Beyond second, there’s also third base, both literally and in this specific case, where the Red Sox will be starting 21-year-old Rafael Devers. Devers is a fantastic talent and much is expected of him, but at his age and experience level, you never know. Which is a nice way of saying he could be bad. If that happens, or if the kid hits the skids for a few weeks, it’s nice to have a competent replacement easily available in Nunez to give him a breather. Beyond holding down the fort for Pedroia and as Devers insurance, it’s always good to have someone who can step in and play if other areas of need should open up. Which, given this is baseball, seems likely.
So Nunez fits in pretty well on the roster as long as he’s willing to deal with the insecurity of not having a daily job in the lineup. And since he’s re-signed with Boston we can reasonably assume that he’s fine with that.
What can we expect from Eduardo in 2018? That’s a bit tougher to answer given the way his 2017 ended, that being getting carried off the field after hurting his knee in the ALDS against Houston. Now seems a good time to state that his signing this contract with Boston depends on him passing a physical, which, based on his injury, is no sure thing. But, for the purposes of this piece, lets assume that he’s healthy and passes his physical. In that case, Nunez was a three-win player each of the past two seasons. Thats quite a gem to have on the bench. That said, his 2017 was helped along by a Manny Ramirez-like slash line of .321/.353/.539 in 173 PAs with Boston. His .751 OPS in San Francisco before the trade is much closer to his career OPS of .735. That’s probably more in line with what should be expected of him. Eduardo Nunez is a nice player, defensively versatile and with some pop, but he’s probably not a .533 slugging percentage type of dude.
You might say, well “Matt” — if that is your real name — what if perhaps Fenway Park just fits with Nunez’s skillset better? What if he’s just a good fit at home in Boston, “Matt?” True, that could be it, but you’d have to explain why, if that’s the case, Nunez hit better on the road than he did in Boston during his brief time with the Sox. It’s possible that Nunez turned over a new leaf after coming to Boston, in a similar manner to J.D. Martinez when he got to Detroit or Jose Bautista when he got to Toronto. It’s possible. If so the Red Sox will have a tremendous deal on their hands whether they’re paying him $4 million a year or $12 million. But the likelihood is Nunez just got extremely hot. It was fun while it lasted, lots of fun in fact, but he’s probably going to fall back toward his career norms. And that’s totally fine. That’s great, even. That’s just dandy. Nunez is going to help to fill the hole left by Pedroia’s absence, and he’ll be there should anyone else fail or fall. That’s insurance. That’s depth. That’s the way a good team makes it through a long, grueling slog of a baseball season.
Eduardo Nunez makes the Red Sox better at whatever price. That’s something worth waiting for.
Photo by Ken Blaze — USA TODAY Sports