The situation at 2nd base is one of luxury for the Red Sox. Dustin Pedroia has been a mainstay in the Boston clubhouse for a decade now. He’s the de-facto captain of this squad, a no-brainer for the starting job at second base for what seems like forever. He provides the heart, soul, and grit reminiscent of “dirt dogs” like Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek of years passed. He’s always up for getting dirty, and he’s never afraid to take one for the team. There’s no mistaking it, he’s an asset to this team. He makes everyone around him better, and he’s definitely the favorite to resume that role going forward, but Eduardo Nunez is a proven and talented alternative, one who’s not someone to sleep on.
Pedroia has had a stellar career up to this point. His trophy case boasts 4 Gold Gloves, a Silver Slugger, a Rookie of the Year, and most impressively for the diminutive 2nd baseman, an MVP. His splendid career stat line looks like this:
.300 BA, .807 OPS, 140 HR, and 724 RBI.
The archetype of consistency, he has hit less than .285 only once in his 10-year career, and a .991 career fielding % is one of the best for a 2nd baseman of this generation. There are some questions about him going forward, though, but they’re based solely on injuries, not ability. He’s spent significant time on the DL in 2 of the last 3 seasons with hamstring and knee issues, the latter of which requiring surgery this past October. Although he’s expected to be back by mid-May, he’ll start 2018 on the DL again, perhaps opening the door for Nunez to state his case.
Nunez is coming off of arguably his best year yet. He posted career highs in both BA (.313) and OPS (.801) in 2017 with the Giants and the Red Sox, respectively. He became especially alive once making the move to Boston via trade. In 38 games in red and white, Nunez batted .321 with 8 HR, 27 RBI, and an .892 OPS. He’s one of the main reasons the Sox were able to hold off the surging Yankees late and claim their second straight AL East crown.
His presence begs the question, then: could he overtake Pedey’s spot and become the everyday 2nd baseman this year? 2018 is the final guaranteed year of Nunez’s current contract (there’s a team option for 2019), and at 30-years old he could be playing for what might be his final big paycheck. The motivation for him to produce is there, and if his performance in 2017 is any indication, he has all of the tools needed to push Alex Cora into a very difficult decision this season.
Of course, only time will tell how this all plays out. The baseball season is long, and there’s a multitude of factors that could have an effect on its ultimate outcome, but the battle for 2nd is certainly one worth keeping an eye on going forward.