Eduardo Michelle Nunez Mendez
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 155 lb.
Eduardo Nunez came to the majors to replace a legend.
Nunez was signed by scout Victor Mata for the New York Yankees in 2004. He debuted that year as a pro, hitting .249/.301/.288 for the DSL Yankees 1. In 2005, he batted .313/.365/.427 for the Staten Island Yankees as the 3rd youngest position player in the New York-Penn League. Nunez was third in the NYPL in hits (88), tied for third in triples (6) and 9th in average. He led the league's shortstops in double plays (46) but also in errors (28). Baseball America rated him as the Yankees' 6th-best prospect and 4th-best in the NYPL (behind Nolan Reimold, Chris Volstad and Wade Davis and ahead of Radhames Liz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie; Clay Buchholz was 13th).
In 2006, Eduardo struggled with the Tampa Yankees (.184/.223/.340) and Charleston RiverDogs (.227/.278/.294). He did steal 32 bases in 42 tries overall, one positive. The Dominican infielder took the opposite course in 2007, starting with Charleston (.238/.293/.290, 20 SB in 28 tries over 91 G) before being returned to Tampa (.285/.336/.350 in 30 G).
Nunez missed time in 2008 with sprains to both thumbs. He hit .271/.305/.383 for Tampa while healthy, but was just 14-for-24 in steal attempts. He fielded .952 at short. In 2009, the 21/22-year-old showed his first signs of serious talent in four years, putting up a .322/.349/.433 talent for the Trenton Thunder. He stole 19 bases in 26 tries. The youngster was second in the Eastern League with 160 hits (4 behind Neil Sellers) and was third in average behind Brock Bond and Josh Thole. He made 33 errors at short, most in the entire EL. He was still named the All-Star shortstop for the league. Baseball America did not list him as one of the league's top 20 prospects, though. That winter, he was 2 for 10 for the Toros del Este.
The Santo Domingo native began 2010 with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, hitting .289/.340/.381 in 118 games with 23 steals in 28 tries while fielding .976 at short. He was called up to the majors when Alex Rodriguez was injured. In his big league debut, he was a defensive substitute for Derek Jeter and turned two double plays in three innings. In his first trip to the plate, he was retired on a pop-up by Jose Valverde. His first hit was on August 21, a single off Jason Vargas to break a 4-4 tie in the 7th; it was the game-winning hit. A week later, he drilled his first home run, a two-run shot off John Danks. He went 14 for 50 (.280) with the one home run and 7 RBI in 30 games in pinstripes that season. Nunez got a lot of playing time for the Yankees in mid-season in 2011 as he got most of the starts at third base when Alex Rodriguez went on the disabled list in July. he played 112 games overall, hitting .265/.313/.385 with 18 doubles in 309 at-bats; he was also successful 22 of 28 times in stealing bases while splitting his time between shortstop and third base. His 20 errors were fourth in the 2011 AL, behind Mark Reynolds, Elvis Andrus and Cliff Pennington, despite his part-time role. He spent the entire season with the Yankees.
In 2012, Nunez was sent back to the minor leagues for part of the season as Eric Chavez and Jayson Nix were the main back-up infielders in New York and he was injured for a time. He played 38 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting only .227/.278/.294, in addition to short rehabilitation stints with the GCL Yankees and Tampa. In the big leagues, he hit .292/.330/.393 in 38 games, but in only 89 at-bats. He went 1 for 5 with a double and a pair of runs scored against the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS, then 2 for 6 with a triple and a homer in the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. With Jeter out at the start of the 2013 season with the sequels of the broken ankle suffered in the previous year's ALCS, Nunez started at shortstop in the first month of the season. However, he injured a rib on May 5th and after a few days of rest were not enough to cure him, was placed on the disabled list on May 12th, one in a very long series of injuries suffered by the Bronx Bombers at the start of the year. He was hitting .200/.290/.275 in 27 games, with three errors and four RBI. Finally he stayed out until July 6th, when he was back in the Yankees' starting line-up after a brief rehabilitation assignment in the minors. He marked his return with his best game of the season, going 2 for 3 with a run and a pair of RBIs in a 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles. He then stayed with the Yankees until the end of the season as Jeter was only healthy for brief stints. He played 90 games, batting .260 with 3 homers and 38 RBI in addition to 17 doubles.
With Jeter having announced that 2014 would be his last season, Nunez was expected to share the SS job with him before eventually taking it over full time. In a surprise move however, Nunez failed to make the team out of spring training and was optioned to the minor leagues as the more versatile Yangervis Solarte took the job of utility infielder. On April 7th, it was confirmed unequivocally that he no longer figured in the Yankees' plans as he was traded to the Minnesota Twins in return for P Miguel Sulbaran. He played 72 games for the Twins that season, hitting .250 with 4 homers and 24 RBIs as a utility player. It was more of the same in 2015, as he gain played 72 games, with shortstop, third base and DH being his most prominent positions. His batting average improved to .282, and he again contributed 4 homers, He had 20 RBIs as the Twins enjoyed their best season in years.
Unexpectedly, Nunez played regularly over the first half of 2016 and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season, being named the team's sole representative to the All-Star Game. Splitting his time between third base and shortstop in order to be in the line-up every day, he hit .321 with 15 doubles, 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 78 games over the first half to earn his first berth in the Mid-summer classic. He was also leading the American League in stolen bases with 26 on July 28th, when he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in return for pitching prospect Adalberto Mejia. From the Twins' point of view, they wanted to cash in on Nunez's value while it was at his highest, but for the Giants, it was more puzzling. They had indeed struggled to find healthy infielders in the first half, but now had 2B Joe Panik, 3B Matt Duffy and back-up Ehire Adrianza all on the verge of returning, so it was not clear why they wanted to expend one of their top pitching prospects on another infielder at that time. In 50 games with San Francisco, he hit .269 and between the two stops, he hit a combined .288 in 141 games, with 24 doubles, 16 homers, 73 runs and 67 RBIs, setting personal bests in just about every offensive category. He appeared in the postseason for the first time since 2012, going 0 for 3 in the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. He was relegated to the bench for most of the postseason, as Conor Gillaspie hit a game-winning home run in the Wild Card Game and as a result held on to the starting job until the Giants were eliminated.
Nunez continued to play well over the first half of 2017 for the Giants, although his solid play was lost in the shuffle as the rest of the team struggled badly. After 76 games, he was hitting .308 with 21 doubles, 4 homers and 31 RBIs when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox on July 25th in return for two prospects. What was interesting about the trade was that the Red Sox had just called-up 20-year-old Rafael Devers from AAA to take over the third base starting job, which had been a black hole offensively until then, but they were hedging their bets by having a productive veteran around to spell him. He started off red hot, going 5 for 9 with two homers in his first two games for the Red Sox and had an incredible 21 hits in his first 11 games, good for an average of .420. Not coincidentally, the Sox reeled off an eight-game winning streak during that stretch. On September 9th, he was batting .312 with 7 homers and 27 RBIs in 37 games for the Red Sox when he left a game against the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2nd inning after coming up limping following an infield hit; he had missed the previous day's game with back spasms, creating additional concern. he was out of action until September 25th. In his return, he doubled in his first at-bat against the Toronto Blue Jays and scored a run, but then crumpled to the ground in pain after fouling a pitch in his next turn to the plate, and had to be removed from the game after finishing the at-bat, having apparently aggravated his knee injury. He did not play again in the regular season, finishing at .321 in 38 games for the Red Sox, but was the starting DH in game 1 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros. That did not last long either, as he crumpled to the ground while running a ground ball in the 1st, had to be carried from the field and after the game was replaced on the roster by Chris Young.
In 2018, he played 127 games for Boston filling in both at second base for an injured Dustin Pedroia and at third when young Rafael Devers struggled at times. he hit .265 with 10 homers and 44 RBIs but his lack of walks meant his OPS+ was just 81. He was a starter at third in the first few games of the postseason, but lost his spot to Devers after some defensive shortcomings. He went 2 for 11 in the Division Series against the New York Yankees, but only batted five times in the ALCS. However, in game 1 of the World Series on October 23rd, he pinch-hit for Devers at a crucial juncture, with two on and two out and the Red Sox nursing a thin 5-4 lead in the 7th. He drove one of Alex Wood's pitches for a three-run homer that in effect sealed Boston's victory.