Eduardo Nunez is with the Mets as a non-roster invitee to spring training in name. In practice, he is probably making the Mets’ Opening Day roster as the wait for Jed Lowrie continues.
Nunez and fellow NRI Matt Adams seem like to obvious choices to grab roster spots that will eventually—hopefully—go to Lowrie and Yoenis Cespedes upon their returns from injury. A Nunez-type that can cover a lot of different positions makes sense, especially with the added roster spot this season. I say “Nunez-type” because his utility is only in being a utilityman; it’s certainly not his bat.
The 32-year-old Nunez is coming off of his worst season in the majors by almost every conceivable metric. But one I’ll point out for fun is his 35 wRC+, which is five points lower than Tomas Nido’s last season and was the worst on the Mets (minimum 80 plate appearances). So that’s not great. He managed just a .243 on-base percentage and slugged just .305.
And then you actually get to his defense, where he is listed as being able to play third base, shortstop, and second base—and he also played some outfield with the Giants in 2017. The problem? By most metrics, he wasn’t very good at any of them.
He also has something hanging over his head that has gone unmentioned thus far: He was on the Red Sox the last three seasons, and his former team is currently under investigation in relation to the Astros’ banging scheme. His former manager, Alex Cora, was reportedly at the center of it all in Houston, and there is a belief that he then brought it with him to Boston. The Red Sox were caught using an Apple Watch to steal signs in 2017. And while both J.D. Davis and Jake Marisnick are still on the team despite their ties to the Astros, the Mets have neither emotionally nor financially invested much in Nunez, if things with the Sox go south.
To return to baseball, if we assume Nunez stays with the team and makes the Opening Day roster, then you should never want to see him on the field. Not because it will most likely be ugly, but because the Mets are deep enough across the infield Nunez getting extended playing time can only be the result of injury. Everyone knows what Nunez is, as even at his best in 2017, he had only a 112 wRC+. He probably won’t post another 35 in 2020, but even if your heart and mind were full of generosity you wouldn’t predict a return to just 100. Basically, he is a warmish body that you can put almost anywhere on the field—he pitched an inning last season!—and expect below-average to middling production, both in the field and at the plate.
Ultimately, if things break right for the Mets, Nunez should only appear maybe 20-30 times, at most, the whole season, if he’s even on the roster that long. But part of things “breaking right” involves Jed Lowrie and his new bionic leg making their way back to the majors, so we may be seeing more Nunez than we like, perhaps making him 2020’s Aaron Altherr.