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Article: How Aggressive Should The Twins Be About Trading Eduardo Nunez


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The bright spots for the Twins have been few and far between this season, but they have been there. Joe Mauer’s hot start, Byung-Ho Park’s chase for the Golden Sledgehammer -- HitTrackerOnline’s award for the longest average HR distance -- and the beginning of Robbie Grossman’s Hall-of-Fame run have been unexpected joys. None of these, however, can hold a candle to Eduardo Nunez’s start.

 

Going into Friday’s game, Nunez was hitting .328/.355/.531 with 12 SB, 9 HR, and a team-best 1.5 fWAR. His 139 wRC+ means he’s nearly 40 percent better than the league-average hitters and while his defense isn’t well-liked by the advanced metrics, he has looked better than previous seasons and has been acceptable filling in for Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Escobar as needed. More than just being one of the most fun players the Twins have on the roster right now, Nunez is one of the very few producing value above what was expected of him. Which, of course, means that he’s the hottest piece of trade bait the Twins have, or so many believe.Nunez has been better in the first 10 weeks of this season than he has been in the rest of his career. Combined. Prior to joining the Twins, Nunez had been worth about -1.7 fWAR due in large part to his terrible defense, though he was consistently about 15-20 percent below league average offensively as well, albeit in very limited playing time. Last season, he was surprisingly effective as a bench bat, hitting .282/.327/.431 in 204 PAs, but he’s taken another leap forward this year, driven largely by 54 point rise in his isolated power.

 

Sustainability is an odd question when it comes to Nunez. His hard-hit rate is up three percentage points, which is good to see, but it’s not enough to explain the fact that his BABIP is nearly 50 points above his career average. He’s hitting more fly balls, and using more of the field, which is always a good thing, but again, it’s not setting the kind of foundation that makes the changes in his game feel like they’ll hold long term. Maybe he sustains it for a full season -- weird seasons like this happen -- or maybe he starts regressing in the summer heat after the best half-season he’s ever had, but either way, it’s hard to look at the first two-plus months of the season and say “this time next season, he’ll probably a similar player.”

 

To understand what the return from trading Nunez would look like, consider a player moved at last year’s deadline. Gerardo Parra was hitting well for the Brewers, .328/.369/.517 with 9 SB and 9 HR. His defense had slipped a bit from it’s previously Gold Glove-caliber level, but probably wasn’t as bad as the advanced numbers said he was. A year younger than Nunez is now, with a far better pedigree, and shockingly similar half-season numbers to Nunez’s current line, Parra was dealt from last-place Milwaukee to a contender that needed help, the Baltimore Orioles. This is pretty much the best case scenario for the selling team, and it netted them... Zach Davies.

 

Even though he was just a 26th round pick, Davies entered the 2015 season as the Orioles’ sixth ranked prospect according to Baseball America -- though he was just the 15th best prospect in the Brewers’ system heading into this year. He’s been serviceable, just a touch below league-average in his 10 starts this season, and he’s 23, so there’s room to project growth. His average fastball velocity sits a hair below 90 mph; one of his top comparables according to Baseball Prospectus is former Twin Anthony Swarzak. So to recap: This trade went about as well as it could have for the Brewers, they gave up a better player than Nunez, and the piece they got back is interesting but ultimately the type of player that can be acquired in a number of different ways. To get a player with a higher ceiling means taking on more risk and getting a player further from the majors. Trades like that happen every year -- my passable known quantity for your potentially interesting dice roll -- and the outcome can generally be summed up with “prospects will break your heart.”

 

Good, bad, and indifferent, Nunez’s profile isn’t unknown in baseball. His career with the Yankees was underwhelming and well-televised, and while his value has risen a fair bit since coming to the Twins, it isn’t as though he has become Yoenis Cespedes. If a team needs a super-utility player who can hit reasonably well, Nunez is definitely on their radar, but that isn’t the profile you give up a top prospect for, and maybe not even a B-level prospect if the team doesn’t have a specific need he’s filling.

 

This is not to say that the Twins definitely should keep Nunez; if Dave Stewart wants to continue emptying out the Diamondbacks’ farm system for questionable returns, by all means the Twins should be willing to facilitate that. Even if someone offers a Davies-caliber player, the team should make that move in an effort to set up for 2017 and beyond. The point is simply that trading Nunez isn’t a pathetically obvious move to make and only a brain-dead fool would miss this chance. The return is likely to be either underwhelming or risky and that assumes there’s a market for him at all.

 

Major league GMs aren’t dumb. Usually. They’re not going to be so dazzled by Nunez’s performance over 210 PAs that they forget to look at the preceding five lines on his Baseball-Reference page. If they do move him, great, there’s nothing better than capitalizing on an asset at peak value. If they don’t, enjoy the fact that he’s allergic to batting helmets and that he has been consistently fun to watch, even when the rest of the team has not.

 

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I wasn't a huge fan of Nunez at first but I love the passion he plays with and how he gives it his all every play. This year he's really grown on me and his performance hasn't hurt either. I do understand that his BABIP indicates he is due for regression and his value may be at its peak. However I wouldn't just trade him for some no name prospect, at this point he is our best option at short stop with Polanco looking like he is either a 2B or trade bait. Unless we can get a prospect that is young with high upside I wouldn't do it. But I tend to be a homer and may be overvaluing him at the moment. However he is a top 5 MLB SS this season even with the sub par defense and is in theory hitting his prime years, which is why I think he has pretty decent value.

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I would work off the concept of whether Nunez will end up as my best utility player option. He might be. If I don't think he is, then I trade him. But I would not make the decision based on his being an IF starter. His inevitable regression will make that a poor basis for trade value. But if someone has a need, and comes calling, I would probably pull the pin.

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There's no reason to trade Nunez if he doesn't bring value in return. It's not like a Plouffe situation where you need to free up a third base spot, or a pitcher who has a massive contract and is blocking younger, better and cheaper talent.

 

Nunez is reasonably priced and under team control. Granted, you could trade him to free up a spot for Jorge Polanco, but I'd want Polanco to play a regular position like second base. Yet Nunez's versatility and his strong play this season, and the lack of any reasonable return you'd get for him, means it's better just to keep him.

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Nunez has value - he's a professional hitter who plays multiple positions. As a part-time player for most of his time with the Twins, his stats are:

 

626 PA   .287/.315/.447   29 SB/40 ATT  2.7 WAR

 

For 2015-2016:

 

413 PA   .307/.339/.482   13 HR   20 SB/28 ATT   2.6 WAR (or 3.8 WAR/600 PA)

 

Nunez turns 29 next week, and he's playing for $1.5 million. I'd look to trade him near the deadline but I wouldn't give him away. I expect a contender with IF injury issues will be interested enough to send the Twins a low top-100 prospect or a very good minor league reliever. As a fan, I wouldn't sell his talent short - he's been getting better since he arrived.

 

(Note: His BABIP is inflated this year but was well below what should be expected from a fast runner in 2014. Of course, maybe he's just made better contact the last two years)

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Not sure how relevant season to season stats are with Nunez.  With a possible exception of 2011, this is his 1st season with regular AB's.  Is his current .332 BA sustainable?  Not sure, but why not?  I'm looking at his splits and they're pretty consistent.  He's also probably the only guy on the team that doesn't pout and actually rises to the occasion. 

 

This isn't a 'sell high' situation.  This is a 'sell when the other guy is desperate' situation.  I wouldn't consider anything until after the All Star break.

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Sell High...

 

How long does it take to establish a high level? I don't think it can be done in a half season. GMs aren't dumb. Players don't ride a roller coaster of value. Suzuki's value didn't change significantly after a good first half in 2014. Nolasco's value is not going to change if he were to string a handful of good starts before the deadline. Establishing value takes years of play.

 

Nunez is having a good year and has also put together a few good years. His OPS from ages 27-29 is .766. His OPS through age 26 was .692. It should be better in the prime but that is a little more increase than typical. A mid 700s OPS is probably around what teams should expect for the remainder of this year. Assuming a winning team values defense at SS, he probably fits best as a 3B. A mid 700s OPS at 3B would rank 18th among team OPS from 3B. That is a new high in value that he has established over the last three years. His previous level was DFA by Yankees and a return the same as the Twins were able to get for Butera.

 

The Twins should listen to offers but there could be more upside in keeping him (if he really is an 800 OPS talent) than the upside in the return.

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His versatility and skill set is perfect for a bench player that can be plugged in to a few different starting positions without much drop off even when he's not having his best year as a pro. I think he could still be useful for a few more years too and his speed is especially valuable. If they trade him fine, but there are several other players I'd prefer to be dealt/unloaded before Nunez.

 

 

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Generally agreed, although it does appear like two infielders will need to be traded/injured in order to get Polanco meaningful playing time this year.

 

Indeed. But I think they'd be better off trading Dozier because of that contract. 

 

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The answer to this question is the same answer to all such "Who Aggressively should the Twins trade Player X"

 

Answer: Very aggressive.  

 

Other than a handful of young guys there shouldn't be a single name safe on this roster.

 

That said, I'd be ok with Nunez staying around if the Twins get low-balled.  Hell, I'd rather have him than Plouffe, Park, Mauer, and a host of other guys.  But I'd still shop him.

Edited by TheLeviathan
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Nunez has value - he's a professional hitter who plays multiple positions. As a part-time player for most of his time with the Twins, his stats are:

 

626 PA   .287/.315/.447   29 SB/40 ATT  2.7 WAR

 

For 2015-2016:

 

413 PA   .307/.339/.482   13 HR   20 SB/28 ATT   2.6 WAR (or 3.8 WAR/600 PA)

 

Nunez turns 29 next week, and he's playing for $1.5 million. I'd look to trade him near the deadline but I wouldn't give him away. I expect a contender with IF injury issues will be interested enough to send the Twins a low top-100 prospect or a very good minor league reliever. As a fan, I wouldn't sell his talent short - he's been getting better since he arrived.

 

(Note: His BABIP is inflated this year but was well below what should be expected from a fast runner in 2014. Of course, maybe he's just made better contact the last two years)

 

I'd sell in a heart beat for a low top 100 prospect.  I suspect that's a bit too high of an asking price though.  Truthfully, I'd sell for a high ceiling A ball kid that is in the 100-150 range.  Davies is more of a back of the rotation type arm.  After looking him up, he's not a bad arm, as he gets more Ks than a guy like Milone, but you're talking about a guy who won't consistently strike out 7 per 9 innings.  He's a cheap 4/5 guy.  I think I'd rather take on more risk and get a higher ceiling than that. 

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I expect a contender with IF injury issues will be interested enough to send the Twins a low top-100 prospect or a very good minor league reliever. 

Top 100?  That's not happening.  Zach Davies wasn't even that level, Sickels didn't even have him in his top 175 entering 2015 or 2016 (although the latter, he did get a mention among "others in the picture" although Sickels went a little overboard listing 145 additional players in that category!).

 

Maybe we could get a project reliever (or two) like the Braves just got for Kelly Johnson:

 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/morriak01.shtml

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How scary is it when Nunez has more value than Dozier, Plouffe, Nolasco, Hughes, and Suzuki (the players who should be traded) probably combined? I think we all kind of figured back in March that this year any trade would be made to supplement a competitive team or an injury replacement. Now we are speculating a trade of our best player this year to get what we can?

 

Our "future" should have started this year, but now it's been pushed back a few more years? Another decade? No decision the FO makes on trades in the next few months is even close to the magnitude of the decision the Pohlads need to make about the FO at season's end.

 

 

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This is a great article.

 

Eduardo Nunez was once a hot prospect, then a discard, then underrated and now may be on the path to be overrated (not yet). But that's not the key issue. The key issue is winning and, more specifically, who has a bigger chance to make a bigger contribution to winning in 2018 and beyond (playoffs in 2017 would be an amazing and probably unprecedented turnaround)? Is it Nunez or some prospect? The answer, of course, depends on the return.

 

One thing that constantly surprises me in discussions about trade return is the setting of low expectations for the return. It used to be the setting of high expectations, but now fans seem to lowball. Last winter, although Plouffe apparently couldn't get anything, Chris Herrmann got Daniel Palka, who is probably going nowhere, but the trade was still considered a good return. A year earlier, the Cubs got Dexter Fowler for an unneeded third baseman of Plouffe quality and a Tommy Milone-quality pitcher. I would expect that Nunez - and Plouffe - should be able to get a return significantly better than Palka, and perhaps much more with the addition of Mr. Milone himself or other spare parts.

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Eduardo Nunez was once a hot prospect

FWIW, I don't know if this is really true.  He was never ranked in any of the "big 3" lists, despite being eligible for such lists for 6 years, up until his 24th birthday.  The Yankees promote aggressively at times, but Nunez basically repeated both A and A+ levels, and spent full seasons at AA and AAA before debuting at age 23.

 

He was pretty consistently a .260-.280 hitter, 90-something wRC+ hitter throughout, except for a .322 AVG, 116 wRC+ blip at AA.  Not a bad young player, could become a decent starter for awhile, but not really a "hot prospect".  I think he just got a lot of attention from the Yankee hype machine for a bit -- Nunez's .322 season at AA just happened to immediately precede Jeter's first big decline year (.270 AVG, 90 OPS+), leading to a lot speculation about him taking over the position.

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One thing that constantly surprises me in discussions about trade return is the setting of low expectations for the return. It used to be the setting of high expectations, but now fans seem to lowball. Last winter, although Plouffe apparently couldn't get anything, Chris Herrmann got Daniel Palka, who is probably going nowhere, but the trade was still considered a good return. A year earlier, the Cubs got Dexter Fowler for an unneeded third baseman of Plouffe quality and a Tommy Milone-quality pitcher. I would expect that Nunez - and Plouffe - should be able to get a return significantly better than Palka, and perhaps much more with the addition of Mr. Milone himself or other spare parts.

Salary was no consideration in the Herrmann-Palka swap.  In some ways, Fowler was a salary dump too -- the Astros exchanged his ~$9 mil salary for Valbuena's ~$4 mil.

 

Plouffe is making $7.25 mil.  He might get you a Palka (who is interesting but isn't that well regarded as a prospect, in some ways like our own Adam Brett Walker), or maybe he might get you another team's salary dump, but primarily he is going to get you salary relief.  Same for Milone at $4.5 mil and in the  minor leagues.

 

Packaging them together would actually reduce their trade value, I think.  Few teams are probably able to pick up the remaining ~$8 mil tab on those two combined, and those teams will probably aim higher.

 

I still think the Twins will probably have to eat some salary to get anything back of consequence for either of those two players.  Which if TR's history is any indication, means we won't get back anything of consequence for them.  At best, 2 months salary relief and a fringe prospect.

 

For Nunez, salary isn't really an issue, so he should be able to net a Palka or two or even a bit better (almost certainly not a top 100 type prospect though).

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I'd try to package Nunez and one of our umpteen mid-level prospects for one of a contending teams better prospects. That's really the only way you could squeeze realistic value out of him. If you can't get something that you think gives you a shot at being better down the line, it really doesn't make sense to deal him. If nothing else, he's proven to be a somewhat useful utility player. 

 

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Generally agreed, although it does appear like two infielders will need to be traded/injured in order to get Polanco meaningful playing time this year.

How does this sound. The FO finally trades Dozier, puts EE at SS, and Nunez at second? :). Edited by Platoon
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Nunez will be, at best, the 24th or 25th player on someone's roster by the time the Twins are a WS contender again.

I can't believe that roughly half the people in here think that we should hold onto him.

 

They need to trade him, and trade him for whatever they can get today, while he's still hot.

 

The "real" Eduardo Nunez is likely a replacement level player.

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