Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor, top, goes up for an overthrow as Minnesota Twins’ Eduardo Nunez (9) slides safely into the bag for a double in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
I was on vacation on July 24, 2012, camping with my family in Lassen National Park.
As my family went to bed, I stayed up late to listen to the San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres 3-2 in walk-off fashion.
The next afternoon, I heard the news. The Dodgers had acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Marlins.
I remember thinking “OK, Giants, you’re move.”
That move came two days later. The Giants had acquired Marco Scutaro.
The Giants had been starting the likes of Gregor Blanco, Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff as the third outfielder. And the Giants counter move to the Dodgers picking up Hanley was to get a veteran infielder seemingly for bench depth?!?
At the time, Pablo Sandoval was on the DL with a hamstring strain, so Scutaro figured to fill in at 3B until the Panda returned. After that, he’d split time at 2B with Ryan Theriot.
Instead, Scutaro became the most valuable Giant in the final two months of the season, hitting .362 in 61 games and their starting second baseman during their run to the 2012 world championship.
That thought came to me Thursday when I heard the Giants had acquired infielder Eduardo Nunez.
To be honest, I was not familiar with Nunez. I’m an NL guy, so I don’t know many AL players, particularly those on the Twins.
When I heard the Giants had sent Adalberto Mejia to the Twins for Eduardo Nunez, I wondered if Nunez was a relief pitcher.
When I found out he was an infielder, I was surprised. So were many Giants fans, who began to wonder if perhaps Matt Duffy’s injury were worse than the Giants were saying.
But Duffy is slated to start a rehab assign on Saturday. So why then get Nunez?
Giants GM Bobby Evans said: “As we look at the rest of the season, we just want to have the protection of (Nunez’s) experience — given the time these guys (Joe Panik, Duffy, Hunter Pence) have missed and how much time they may need to have off down the stretch.”
So here is what can expect of Nunez for now.
Yes, Duffy begins a rehab assignment on Saturday. But the Giants have taken a conservative approach with Duffy, so we can expect that rehab stint to last at least a week, maybe more.
Nunez will be the Giants’ starting third baseman for the next week or so. And so long, Conor Gillaspie, who seems the most likely candidate to be DFA’d to make room for Nunez.
After Duffy returns, look for Bruce Bochy to get Nunez into the lineup as often as possible, at as many different spots as possible. He could give Duffy a rest at third. He could give Brandon Crawford an occasional break at short. He could start for Panik at second, particularly against lefties. Nunez is hitting .311 vs. lefties this season and five of his 12 home runs have come against lefties even though he’s had a third as many plate appearances against lefties as righties.
Nunez is hitting .296 with 12 home runs, 47 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He was the Twins’ representative at the All-Star Game. His home run total matches the Giants’ team leader (Buster Posey). His stolen base total is more than the top three Giants combined (Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Duffy).
Nunez has played 51 games at shortstop this season, 33 at third base and five at second. In his career, he’s played 29 games in the outfield. He is also under team control through 2017.
The Giants may have picked up their super utility player they have lacked for many years.
To get Nunez, the Giants gave up Mejia,who was rated by MLB.com as the Giants’ No. 5 overall prospect and No. 3 pitching prospect. The 23-year-old is 7-3 with 2.81 ERA in 29 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. He was 4-1 with a 4.20 ERA with Sacramento. Mejia was rated the 91st best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America’s midseason rankings.
The Brewers were said to have been interested in Mejia, which may tell us about the price the Brewers were looking for in exchange for relievers Will Smith or Jeremy Jeffress. So then we can assume the Brewers were looking for Mejia AND someone else to give up Smith or Jeffress.
The Nunez trade could be an indicator of the steep price teams are asking right now for pitching, at least right now. The trade deadline is still a couple of days away. If the Giants make a deal for relief help, it likely won’t happen until right up against the deadline.
Nunez is slated to arrive today. Gillaspie will be gone. Hunter Pence is supposed to be activated Saturday. Jarrett Parker will head to Sacramento. Ehire Adrianza will be activated Tuesday. Ramiro Pena will be DFAd.
The Giants will hope at least two of the four DFA candidates (Tejada, Green, Gillaspie, Pena) will clear waivers and accept an assignment to Sacramento. And they still have Kelby Tomlinson at Triple-A.
I’m not entirely sure who leaves the 25-man roster when Duffy gets activated. Provided no one else goes on the DL before then, Mac Williamson could go back to Triple-A for a couple weeks before returning when rosters expand.
Eduardo Nunez’s acquisition surprised many Giants fans. But he may just be the 2016 Marco Scutaro. And with the return of Panik, Pence, Adrianza and Duffy, may help provide the offensive spark the Giants have been so badly missing since the All-Star break.
People say pitching wins championships. Maybe so. But depth also wins championships.
And each of the Giants’ three title runs including key contributions from unexpected sources — Cody Ross, the 2010 NLCS MVP; Scutaro, the 2012 NLCS MVP; Travis Ishikawa, clinching home run in the 2014 NLCS.
We can only hope Nunez is that surprise hero of 2016.