Best of BSJ Free Preview

MLB Notes: Is Eduardo Nunez more than a rental for the Red Sox?

(Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

Ten items about the Red Sox and Major League Baseball:

When the Red Sox obtained Eduardo Nunez from the San Francisco Giants a few days before the non-waiver deadline, the move was viewed, understandably, as a rental.

After all, Nunez has an expiring contract and is eligible for free agency this off-season. The deal was not unlike many others transacted in late July every season: a team out of contention (the Giants) trades a player it’s likely to lose anyway to a team in the playoff race (Red Sox).

The Sox saw Nunez as a means to bolster an offense that had gone, in the words of manager John Farrell “stagnant’’ in July, and Nunez’s versatility was an added bonus.

Still, it was viewed as a short-term arrangement: Nunez would come to Boston for the final two months of the regular season, help the Red Sox in the post-season, then head elsewhere in free agency.

Now, however, that may have changed.

Nunez has surpassed the Red Sox’ most optimistic projections. He entered Sunday with a slash line of .324/.353/.550, and his arrival coincided with an offensive awakening for the Red Sox’ lineup. Hitting mostly leadoff, Nunez has jumpstarted the offense and, as a bonus, supplied surprising power (six homers in 106 at-bats). And he’s been invaluable filling in at second base while Dustin Pedroia battles a knee injury.

All of which begs the question: is there a spot for Nunez with the Red Sox after 2017?

Perhaps. Nunez’s ability to move around the infield makes him a valuable piece with lots of uses. Moreover, the Red Sox have said that Pedroia’s knee condition is something he’ll have to monitor for the rest of his career. Having Nunez as insurance at second would provide invaluable depth and injury protection.

“Today, I don’t want to think about that,’’ Nunez told BostonSportsJournal.com. “We’ve got 30-something games left and hopefully the playoffs. I want to finish strong. Beyond that, I don’t want to think about that too much. But I think every player would want to stay in Boston. You have the opportunity to win every year. I would feel lucky if they (wanted to bring me back), I would love to.''

At 31, Nunez may be looking at this as his opportunity to earn his big payday, with a multi-year commitment and a chance to play every day at one position. But it may well be that Nunez’s best deal would be to sign somewhere where his versatility would be rewarded.

These days, with managers intent on using their entire rosters and providing rest for everyday players, someone like Nunez has great value.

“He may end up being worth more as a ‘super utility’ guy,’’ said one A.L. talent evaluator, “instead of going somewhere and trying to market himself as an everyday guy at short or third.’’

Nunez will expect a raise over his current $4.2 million salary. But two winters ago, the Sox gave a guaranteed two year, $13 million deal to Chris Young, whom they viewed as a platoon outfielder. What would stop them from giving Nunez a multi-year deal when he could be of more use?

At nearly 37, Rajai Davis remains an elite base stealer. The newest Red Sox outfielder led the A.L. in stolen bases last season with 43 and is 26-for-32 this year.

That doesn’t surprise Terry Francona, who managed Davis in Cleveland last year.

“He was always ready to run,’’ said Francona, “because he worked at it so hard. Whether he started a game or (was) pinch-running, he was 0-to-60, right now.  And it’s not by accident (that he still runs well). Every day, whether it’s the (stretching) bands or the (rubber) tubing, he doesn’t allow himself to regress. It’s something to watch. He’ll help the Red Sox.’’

Insofar as both Major League Baseball and the Players Association came together to create this “Players Weekend’’ concept, with players allowed to put nicknames on their jerseys and commemorative patches to honor those who helped them reach the big leagues, the goal was admirable.

For a change, players were encouraged to show some personality and both the game and Players Association worked together to help broaden baseball’s appeal to young fans. All good there. Goodness knows some better marketing and outreach to the younger fan base is both welcome and necessary.

But I’m still unclear on how, precisely, this idea accomplishes the latter. A cynic might look at this and be easily convinced that it’s nothing more than a ploy to sell more merchandise.

A popular opinion in the game is that it’s hard for starting pitchers to be team leaders because they’re only participating every five days. But anyone who watches – or listens to – Chris Sale could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

A few weeks back, Sale could be seen in the bowels of Tropicana Field skipping rope an hour after he shut out the Rays for eight innings in a masterful performance. Then, last week in Cleveland, Sale stood and answered questions about his inability to pitch well against Cleveland.

He offered no excuses, was brutally honest in addressing his struggles (“I sucked’’) and vowed to improve.

Even more impressive was the determination on Sale’s face when asked if he would like another crack at the Indians in the post-season.

“I would love it, absolutely love it,’’ said Sale.

Even allowing for his difficulties with Cleveland?

“Hell, yeah,’’ said Sale.

If you're a Red Sox fan, how do you not love that attitude?

It may ultimately be a futile battle given the nature of his injuries, but all over baseball, players are rooting for New York Mets third baseman David Wright as he began a rehab assignment last week.

Wright has battled back, shoulder and neck woes for the better part of the last three seasons, having played a total of 75 games since the start of 2015.

There are serious doubts about whether Wright can overcome those issues and return to be a regular contributor. But you’ll not find a more popular player in the game, and those who have crossed paths with him are hoping he can have a successful comeback.

“I got to see it every day for two years,’’ said Red Sox reliever and former Met Addison Reed. “I’ll start off by saying I’ve not played with a better guy, ever, and I’m not sure I will. It’s not a knock against any other of my teammates or any future teammates. I will say that he’s the best teammate I’ve ever had.

“He’s respected by everybody – by rookies, by veterans, by Latins, by American-born players…there’s not one person that doesn’t respect him. I think it’s about how he goes about things. He plays the game the right way, plays it hard. Even when he’s not healthy, he’s still there and everybody knows he’s there. Before you do anything, you kind of ask yourself:  ‘Would the captain be OK with this? Is this something that he would do? If it is, you could do it; if it wasn’t, you’d think about doing it.’

“I’m pretty confident in saying that I’ll never have a teammate as good as he was. Never have, never will.’’

Players constantly mention that they would prefer to police themselves, rather than have umpires or baseball officials interfere. There’s a culture that players understand, and left to their own devices, they suggest, they’re best equipped to handle whatever issues come up on the field.

But in Detroit Thursday afternoon, that theory was shot full of holes as the Tigers and Yankees emptied the benches three times and brawled like out-of-control grade schoolers.

It was an embarrassing display of unchecked emotions and machismo, and a reminder that in cases like this, players don’t actually know best.

Yoan Moncada isn’t exactly tearing it up for the White Sox. Moncada was placed on the DL with shin splints, his second leg injury since being promoted from Triple A.

But even when healthy, Moncada continues to have difficulty with pitch recognition and making regular contact. In 30 games, Moncada is slashing .188/.328/.356 and striking out in a third of his plate appearances (44 in 122 trips).

Thirty games – and eight last year in a late-season call-up with the Red Sox – is not nearly enough time to evaluate a player, and Moncada remains a terrific athletic specimen with great tools. But he’s also still raw with a lot of development still to go.

Don’t sleep on the Cubs. The Dodgers may be threatening to finish the season 60 games over .500 and look like the team to beat in the N.L., but Joe Maddon believes that his defending champs could be ready for anybody come October.

The Cubs haven’t clinched their division, and if they do, they’ll have to beat a good Washington team to advance to an NLCS date with the Dodgers.

But Maddon, speaking to the New York Times, is already tempting fate by looking ahead.

“Absolutely want it, totally want it, nothing would make me happier,’’ said Maddon of a potential date with the Dodgers. “That’s not to denigrate other teams that potentially could get in here. But for us, I’ve always been about ‘You want to beat the best to be the best.’ They’re the best right now and you’ve got to go through that group. I’m looking forward to that moment where I feel like we’re clicking on all cylinders again. We’re getting closer to it – and when you get to that point, bring on all comers.’’

Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter will see their contracts expire at the end of 2018 and it’s hard to imagine both returning to the Orioles past that.

Duquette has made it known that he wants to be a club president – like Mark Shapiro in Toronto – and the Orioles are reluctant to give him that sort of promotion. Meanwhile, Showalter is said to have front office aspirations himself.

Many in the game are surprised that Showalter and Duquette have co-existed for as long as they have. But one – or both – could go their separate ways following next season.

While the A.L. is full of drama for the wild card – eight teams are bunched together by three games – it’s pretty much over in the National League, where two division races were decided long ago and even the second-half dropoff of Arizona and Colorado hasn’t made the wild-card race very compelling