Yankees Swap Gonzalez For Nunez

New York takes cheap flier on young power arm

The Deal
The Nationals picked up middle infield insurance in Alberto Gonzalez, acquiring him from the Yankees for power righthander Jhonny Nunez.
The Prospects
Gonzalez, 25, shares a name with the former U.S. Attorney General but is not related. He began his career in the Diamondbacks organization and came to the Yankees, along with since-traded righty Ross Ohlendorf and righty Stephen Jackson, in the deal that sent Randy Johnson back out to Arizona. Gonzalez is an above-average defensive shortstop with solid range, soft hands and a plus arm, but he wasn't the top defender at the position in the Yankees system—that's Double-A Trenton's Ramon Pena. Gonzalez had not shown he could hit upper-level pitching yet, hitting just .250/.313/.356 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and was just 10-for-66 in his two short big league stints, including 9-for-52 (.173) this season. He's shown some plate discipline throughout his career but lacks the power to be an everyday regular at just 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds.

Nunez, 22, came to the Nationals organization from the Dodgers in the 2006 Marlon Anderson trade. He went 4-6, 4.05 last year at low Class A Hagerstown in his steady full-season debut, which he spent almost exclusively as a starter. But Nunez struggled to maintain his velocity late into games and lacked a quality third pitch, so a move to the bullpen seemed inevitable. He advanced to high Class A Potomac to start this year, going 2-8, 5.22 with 82 strikeouts and 21 walks in 81 innings over 21 appearances (17 starts). Nunez has worked out of the bullpen since earning a midseason promotion to Double-A Harrisburg, going 0-0, 1.13 in eight innings. He profiles as a middle reliever down the road, with a lively, sinking fastball that tops out at 94 mph and an improving slider from a low three-quarters arm slot.
Quick Take

This trade is puzzling for the Nationals, who recently extended shortstop Cristian Guzman's contract for two more years and acquired second baseman Emilio Bonifacio from Arizona for Jon Rauch. Gonzalez is a spare part who does not project as a big league regular. The Nationals are expected to place Guzman on the disabled list, but it seems short-sighted to part with a young, power arm for a low-upside, short-term insurance policy. Maybe Nunez will be just a middle reliever, and maybe he won't reach the big leagues at all, but he certainly has a higher ceiling than Gonzalez. The Nationals system is thin in the middle infield, but acquiring more utility players is a strange solution.

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