It is no secret that the loss of Matt Duffy to an Achilles’ injury has severely hindered the offensive production of the Giants, not to mention losing Joe Panik and Hunter Pence to injuries, as well. Although all three players are in the midst of recovering and should be able to return before the season ends, the Giants needed to make some type of move before the trade deadline to combat opening the second half of the season with a whopping 2 wins and 10 losses. Well, they did just that in trading one of their top pitching prospects, southpaw Adalberto Mejia, to the Minnesota Twins for a player having a career year in Eduardo Nunez.
Now, some might say that Conor Gillaspie (who has been the main 3rd baseman with Duffy out) has done a fine job of filling in, and they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. On the other hand, however, giving up a prospect that has yet to actually play in the majors for a player having a career year sounds like a much better option, and quite frankly, it is. Below is a table comparing Conor Gillaspie and Eduardo Nunez’s statistics so far this season.
Granted, Gillaspie has a much smaller sample size, but this comparison makes it obvious how much of an upgrade Nunez is over him. Nunez leads the American League in stolen bases this year with 27, which is 16 more steals than his next highest season total, which was 11 stolen bases in 2012. Looking at each players’ weighted runs created plus (wRC+) we can tell that Nunez creates 3% more runs than the average hitter would in 396 plate appearances. While that doesn’t seem like much, Conor Gillaspie creates 5% less runs than the average hitter would in the 127 plate appearances he has had. Overall, upgrading to Nunez should create 8% more runs than having Gillaspie in the lineup would, which is a big deal in the long run as the Giants continue to fight off the Dodgers for first place in the NL West.
Here I have posted a couple charts from Fangraphs comparing each players’ stats to the league average.
From the above graphs, once again it is quite obvious that Nunez is a much better asset than Conor Gillaspie is on a daily basis. Nunez is above league average this year in almost all of the key statistical, offensive categories, while Gillaspie seems to be just equal to, or below league average in those same categories.
Now, we know that Eduardo Nunez is a much better option short-term, but what about when Matt Duffy returns to the team? I have seen reports that Duffy will be replacing Nunez once he is available to play with the Giants again, but honestly, that might not be the best move for manager Bruce Bochy. Just like I did above, below I have a table comparing Duffy (before his injury) and Eduardo Nunez’s respective seasons.
By comparing each player based on the statistics in the table above, once again it seems obvious that Eduardo Nunez is the better option for the Giants, even when Duffy returns. Matt Duffy does have a walk rate that is just under double Eduardo Nunez’s walk rate, indicating that he has some more control at the plate than Nunez does. However, statistically Eduardo Nunez is better in every other category besides walk rate than Duffy. Matt Duffy creates 12% less runs than the average hitter would in the same number of plate appearances, which is 7% less than Conor Gillaspie, and a whopping 15% less than Eduardo Nunez. Offensively, Eduardo Nunez is the best option over both Matt Duffy and Conor Gillaspie, and should be a big upgrade for the struggling Giants’ bats.
This deal the Giants made with the Twins looks to be a steal, as long as Eduardo Nunez keeps up the career year that he is currently having. I would honestly expect him to share time with Duffy at third base once he returns from his Achilles’ injury just because of the huge offensive upgrade he is for the Giants, and how important that offense will be come the end of the season when they are still battling with the Dodgers for first place in their division.