Friday, November 22, 2013

40-Man Moves Could Signal The End Of Nix, And Maybe Nunez

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

If you didn't get all jazzed up at the announcement of the 40-man roster moves on Wednesday, don't worry.  I didn't either.  It went almost exactly as expected, with the Yankees protecting Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, and Jose Campos from next month's Rule 5 Draft by adding them to the roster and leaving their Rule 5 eligible relievers unprotected.

The one unforeseen move was made via trade, a small trade between the Yankees and the Padres for MiL utility infielder Dean Anna.  Anna is a 26-year-old lefty hitter who can play all over the infield and some of the outfield, with his primary positions being second base and shortstop.  He was hardly a prospect in the San Diego system, but the guy does appear to have some tools.  He hit .331/.410/.482 (.400 wOBA) in 582 Triple-A plate appearances last year, he's always had strong K and BB rates, and he's got enough gap power in his bat to conceivably be a useful bench player.  He came at the expense of High-A pitcher Ben Paullus, which is to say the Yanks basically got him for free, and his immediate addition to the 40-man is another harrowing sign for some of the Yankees' incumbent infielders.

Anna's addition, along with the 5 spots now taken up by the team's protected prospects, leaves the Yankees with 1 open spot on the 40-man right now.  That spot is only there because the Yanks chose to outright Corban Joseph off the roster and back to Triple-A.  With the team expected to sign more than 1 free agent and the December 2nd non-tender deadline approaching, things aren't looking good for Jayson Nix.  He was last year's primary utility guy who, like many other injury replacements, got exposed as below-average when he was forced into regular playing duty.  He's perfectly fine with the glove and there's value in his positional flexibility, but he's a non-factor with the bat and is projected to make over $1 million next year in arbitration.  Anna is younger than Nix, cheaper than Nix, can play all the same positions as Nix, and is projected to put up a .317 wOBA next year, offensive production that would be better than Nix.

And what about Eduardo Nunez?  With Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan holding down the top 2 spots at shortstop and Anna now on the roster as injury insurance, Nunez appears to be getting kicked down the depth chart at his primary position.  He's still young and still offers some offensive upside, but at the end of the day he's still a below-average hitter and horrific fielder who hasn't shown any signs of improving on either side of the ball since breaking into the Majors.  He could get another shot at third base next year, but the Yankees are going to look for a better option there and they still have David Adams on the 40-man.  With so many spots being reserved for real prospects, Nunez might become a victim of his own lack of improvement.  He won't fetch much in a trade but at this point he might be more valuable to the Yankees as a trade piece and an open roster spot than a utility backup to the backup.

If I had to decide, I'd say Nix is definitely a goner.  I didn't have him on my Project 189 roster and I'll venture a guess that there will be more IIATMS/TYA writers who won't as well.  Nunez could stick around for now, but Anna's presence on the 40-man makes him a lot more expendable.

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