According to a report from John Heyman, the Brewers are one of several teams that have shown some interest in Eduardo Nunez. Nunez split his 2017 season between the San Francisco Giants and the Boston Red Sox, and his combined slash with the two teams is a good .313/.341/.460, for an acceptable OPS of .801. Even more enticing is the line that he put up with the Red Sox, once he was released from the hitter-unfriendly confines of AT&T Park in San Francisco.
As a member of the Bosox, Nunez slashed .321/.353/.539, OPSing .892. In 173 plate appearances for Boston he had 12 doubles and 8 homers. He was an All Star in 2016 as a member of the Twins.
Nunez has played second, short, third, and all three outfield positions in his career. The Brewers value versatility, and that was one of the attractions to the team of Josh Harrison, who could soon be a casualty of the Pirates deconstruction of their present roster. But Nunez would cost just money, and MLB Trade Rumors has his projected contract at 2 years, $14 mil. That’s just three or so million more than one year of Harrison, and two years of service. There would be no draft pick compensation due for signing Nunez.
Nunez is a contact hitter, striking out only 11% of the time in 2017, but his high contact rate means he doesn’t walk much, either - just 3.7% in that same season. Our old friend the Steamer Projection system (via Fangraphs) has him at .288/.327/.443, OPS of .770, for next season. Of course, if he signed with the Brewers, those projections would be adjusted to factor in a home ballpark of Miller Park. Eduardo is currently 30, so a two-year deal should encompass two productive seasons.
Nunez isn’t dissimilar to Jonathan Villar and Hernan Perez in the role that he would fulfill. He is more versatile than Neil Walker as a free agent (and probably cheaper). It would probably mean one of those two current Brewers would be gone from the team if the club signed Nunez, and Nunez would be more expensive than the other two combined.
Would there be enough offensive production from Nunez to make additional investment wise? That’s problematic. Perez is a better defender. Villar had a better offensive season two years ago, but last year’s effort was much worse. And Nunez and Villar are probably about equal defensively.
If the Red Sox are truly interested in re-signing Nunez, that might make it more difficult for the Brewers to entice Nunez in this clouded (do you notice how close clouded and colluded are?) free agent market. But if the Red Sox reach an agreement with J.D. Martinez for the reported $100+ mil over five years, perhaps their interest in Nunez would dry up, depending on how far over the luxury tax they are willing to go. Boston currently sits at about $191 mil, according to Spotrac. That tax wouldn’t be too heavy, with the level set at $197 mil for 2018 and $206 mil for 2019. The Red Sox paid a luxury tax of $4.5 mil in 2016, but came in under for 2017. Oddly, the Brewers were not charged a luxury tax in either of those seasons.
And so we sit and wait.
Statistical information courtesy of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Spotrac