The New York Yankees’ playoff hopes are sitting on the edge of a straight razor right now and any wrong move, even ever so slightly, could send this season crashing to an ugly end. Manager Joe Girardi knows this. However, that hasn’t kept him from playing Eduardo Nunez in the field despite Nunez’s history of poor play on defense at third base and shortstop.
The Yankees have a solid, if unspectacular third baseman in Mark Reynolds to play when Alex Rodriguez needs a night off at the hot corner, something that might be happening quite a bit since Rodriguez’s body is breaking down. Nunez has done nothing to warrant playing time in the field at this critical juncture late in games. However, there Nunez was in the seventh inning with the score tied at four with the Boston Red Sox and Shane Victorino hit a liner right at Nunez. Nunez, being a Major Leaguer, should have had a play on that ball. Instead, Victorino was on first and Hiroki Kuroda was out of the game. Shortly thereafter, Preston Claiborne was in the game and the bases were soon loaded for Jarrod Saltalamacchia who promptly hit the go-ahead grand slam.
Through the 78 games prior to the Friday night loss to the Red Sox, Nunez has committed 12 errors and owns a -2.6 defensive wins above replacement. That is just not good enough. That stat means a replacement level player would be an upgrade on defense by 2.6 wins.
With wins being ever so precious, the Yankees can’t afford to give Nunez playing time in the field in tight games like they did Friday night. With Brendan Ryan now in the mix with Reynolds and Rodriguez, there is no excuse for giving Nunez playing time in the late innings in the field. Even David Adams is an upgrade over Nunez defensively.
If Girardi wants to keep Nunez in the lineup for his bat he must take into consideration that he can’t be playing in the field late in games. That is just unacceptable with the Yankees needing every win they can manage as they fight for a Wild Card spot. It is inexcusable at this point.