According to MLB.com’s Bill Lasdon, at least 12 teams have inquired with the Washington Nationals about Danny Espinosa, one of them being the New York Yankees. With Robinson Cano’s departure and Derek Jeter’s age, the Yankees began a (apparently ongoing) quest to add depth to the middle of the infield. Espinosa could be the latest addition.
Last December, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal claimed that a deal will probably not happen.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2013
For the Yankees’ sake, I hope Rosenthal is correct. Though the team could use a steadier player up the middle, Espinosa isn’t the answer.
Espinosa is a great defender, but he only played in 44 games in 2013 and batted a measly .158/.193/.272 with three home runs and 12 RBI. He has an above-average glove and well-below average bat. Sounds like a guy who could be great as a backup/late game defensive replacement; sounds like Brendan Ryan.
Espinosa will be 27 by the start of next season (versus 32 for Ryan), so he does have the potential for improvement. Yet again, however, the Yankees already have a player in a similar situation.
Eduardo Nunez turns 27 in June, and like Espinosa, he has four Big League seasons under his belt. In his career, he’s batted .267/.313/.379 with 10 home runs and 76 RBI. By comparison, Espinosa has a career line of .230/.303/.396 with 47 home runs and 147 RBI in twice as many at-bats. Espinosa has never batted higher than .247 in a season. Nunez has never batted lower than .260.
Since 2010, Nunez has performed admirably whenever Jeter’s been injured but has unfortunately had numerous stints on the DL himself. The greatest knock against Nunez is his defense. Indeed, costly errors late in games last year were the impetus for the Yankees’ acquisition of Ryan. Nevertheless, Nunez shares Espinosa’s youthful upside.
Nunez’s defense improved dramatically in 2013 after being moved to third base, and he would be even better-suited at second base (where Espinosa would likely play). Nunez primarily made throwing errors. Thus, putting him at second gives him a shorter throw and makes him much less of a liability in the field (as does the return of Mark Teixeira, who digs out low throws in his sleep). Suffice to say, there’s a better chance of Nunez improving his defense than there is of Espinosa becoming a better hitter in the AL East.
The Yankees already have a defensive specialist to replace Jeter at shortstop late in games. They also have a young middle-infielder who could be a solid Major League starter with some coaching. Basically, Espinosa doesn’t offer anything that the team doesn’t already have.