Red Sox: Sign Eduardo Nunez or lose him to Yankees

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: Eduardo Nunez
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: Eduardo Nunez /

If the Boston Red Sox don’t re-sign Eduardo Nunez, they risk losing another offseason target to the New York Yankees.

The Boston Red Sox had a beautiful relationship with Eduardo Nunez for half a season. Nunez was the impact bat Boston desperately needed, and Boston was the playoff contender Nunez desperately wanted — especially after the San Fransisco Giants had a nightmarish season.

Unfortunately, Nunez saw his stellar season come to a screeching halt when injuries wore down any momentum the right-handed slugger had.

Now, Boston must decide whether that beautiful relationship is worthy of a marriage.

Don’t blink — the New York Yankees are also eyeing a reunion with the veteran, according to Joe Giglio.

While retaining Nunez, 30, isn’t a must for the Red Sox, watching him play in pinstripes for an already stacked lineup would be another tablespoon of salt to an open wound for Boston. The Red Sox have a crowded yet fragile roster, and signing Nunez would be a tremendous reinforcement that gives Boston’s lineup flexibility.

Red Sox first basemen Hanley Ramirez (34) and Mitch Moreland (32) were both injured at some point last season. One could argue Moreland was banged up for more than half the season, never recovering to full form. Additionally, Ramirez’s dreadful history of injuries — and offensive slumps — leaves another question mark to a lineup in need of consistent offense.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia also has had his fair share of injuries that has derailed his offensive production. While it may take the entire clubhouse to hold Pedroia down from taking the field for 182 games, the reality is the team needs to monitor the 34-year-old’s health. The days of counting on Pedroia for 182 games are over — and the Red Sox need to accept that reality.

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The Red Sox need an impact bat who can keep Pedroia fresh. Not Brock Holt nor Deven Marrero. Not Tzu-Wei Lin. Certainly not Marco Hernandez.

What about shortstop Xander Bogaerts? Outfielder Mookie Betts? Both were banged up with multiple injuries for half the season.

Additionally, young players Rafael Devers and Andrew Benintendi could also use time off when experiencing big league struggles.

Who is an impact bat that can play any of those positions? It’s Eduardo Nunez. He’s already proven to be comfortable with playing a super utility role with a smile on his face. The Red Sox will be able to give him his share of at-bats, while allowing the team to stay fresh through the long season.

Think of it as a running-back-by-committee strategy many NFL teams use; more carries, fresher legs. The same can be applied to the Red Sox; more at-bats, fresher legs.

The health of the lineup isn’t expected to be as unlucky as last season’s, but it begs the question: who steps up when someone goes down? It used to be Holt, but his offense has decline. Chris Young also provided a spark in 2016 with a .276/.352/.498 slash line, but saw those numbers dip to .235/.322/.387 last season. Young, a free agent, isn’t expected to return to Boston for 2018.

Can the Red Sox expect Nunez back in 2018? It’s tough to say. His market seems to be developing at a snail’s pace, but isn’t everyone’s at this point? Aside from the Yankees, the Jays, Giants, Brewers, Braves and Royals are said to have some level of interest in Nunez, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.

It will also be difficult to predict if Nunez can replicate his production from last year. He set a career high slash line of .313/.341/.460 before ending the year with a reaggravated knee injury. Can Nunez be depended on to replicate his career year after having such a serious knee injury?

That remains to be seen. However, how many super utility players are happy to play for a team that will jockey him around the diamond and lineup? Not many. There aren’t many backup plans for Boston in free agency, should they miss out on Nunez.

Again, the Red Sox already have a roster full of injury concerns, especially after last season. Their starting baseman may not be ready to start the season — and if he is, no one knows how long it’ll take him to regain health and form. Already, there’s a huge hole that Nunez can fill, and the season hasn’t even begun.

Signing Nunez is a smart business decision for the Red Sox. If Boston can bring back Nunez on a 2-3 year deal — even if it’s a slight overpay — it would vastly improve the depth and offensive production for a team that needs it.

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If the Red Sox choose to move on from Nunez, they may get burned by the Yankees for a second time in one offseason. First the Red Sox lose out on Giancarlo Stanton, the power bat they desperately need. Now, they could potentially lose out on an impact bat that provides depth and flexibility — a need they must address.

Your move, Dave Dombrowski.