The Brewers still need to shop the corner infield market this offseason. Luckily, one with multiple years of control remaining just became available.
Young, controllable talent. For as long as David Stearns has been in charge of assembling the Milwaukee Brewers roster, that is a quality he has valued in his players above almost anything else.
Unfortunately, to get that type of talent, teams generally have to either trade for it, or develop it through the farm system. The list of available free agents echoes as much, as it mostly is full of players over 30 or relative stars looking for a big time contract.
This offseason appears as though it may be presenting a new wrinkle, though. With teams having to tighten the purse strings, arbitration-eligible players who were borderline candidates to be tendered contracts in previous offseasons potentially won’t have the same job security over the next few months.
The Baltimore Orioles seemingly came to this realization recently. Needing to make room on the 40-man roster for some prospects that needed to be protected from the Rule 5 draft, the team designated one of their better offensive performers from the last couple seasons for assignment.
Renato Nunez may not be one of the most well-known corner infielders out there, but he has put up some decent offensive numbers in the last two seasons as an Oriole. And he’s the type of player that Stearns should look into.
The offensive history as well as the price and years of team control Renato Nunez provides could be intriguing for the Brewers.
After seeing limited major league at bats from 2016 to the beginning 2018 with the A’s and Rangers, Nunez was claimed by the Orioles in May of 2018 from Texas. He would be added to the roster in July of that year and go on to play 60 games, slashing .275/.336/.445.
Nunez saw his first full season of playing time in 2019 and got to show off the power he was known for. He bashed a career-high 31 homers that season while driving in 90 and adding 72 runs scored.
Nunez continued to display his power stroke in 2020, leading the team with 12 homers and finishing third with 31 runs driven in, one off the team lead. And yet, due a projected $2.1MM to $3.9MM raise in arbitration, he found himself DFA’d last week.
Nunez isn’t without his flaws. He has a career on base percentage of just .313, mostly because he’s not very patient at the plate. He has a career 280 strikeouts to just 81 walks and his 0.27 walk to strikeout ratio was tied for 10th worst in the AL in 2020 among qualified hitters.
He also isn’t particularly great defensively as he’s had negative marks in defensive runs saved and outs above average the past two seasons. Nunez would be best suited for designated hitter, if the NL brings that back in 2021, but the Orioles found him to be less of a liability at first than at third in recent seasons, which is fine since the Brewers could use help at both corner infield spots.
So Nunez comes with his risks, yes. But their other options are to pay roughly the same price for an older veteran like Mitch Moreland, or pay even more for a bounceback candidate like Carlos Santana. At his price, potential, and with four years of team control remaining, Nunez certainly feels like the type of player the Brewers often go for.
It remains to be seen whether Nunez will pass through waivers or be claimed by another team. Whatever ends up happening with him, the Brewers would be wise to at least consider adding him to the team somehow.