Two things the Los Angeles Dodgers have come to value in recent years perhaps more than any other team are depth and versatility, both with their position players and pitchers.
The Dodgers added a pitcher that gives them both of those things in Jimmy Nelson. The right-hander signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with L.A. this month, in a deal that includes incentives as well as a vesting option for 2021.
Nelson was once a promising young arm for the Milwaukee Brewers, going 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA, 3.05 FIP and 1.25 WHIP with 199 strikeouts and 48 walks in 175.1 innings across 29 starts in 2017.
He suffered a shoulder injury sliding into first base in September of that season, and it wound up costing him the entire 2018 campaign and a portion of 2019.
Nelson was not able to regain his pre-injury form in 2019, as he pitched to a 6.95 ERA in 22 innings across 10 games (three starts) at the big league level. The Brewers non-tendered him at the end of the year.
The Dodgers see the obvious upside with the 30-year-old though and brought him in on a low-risk, high-reward type of deal. It is unclear what his exact role with the team will be, but according to Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times, Nelson will be given an opportunity to win a job in the starting rotation during Spring Training:
The Dodgers will give Nelson the opportunity to win a spot in the starting rotation in spring training. If that doesn’t work out, they think there’s upside for him in the bullpen.
— Jorge Castillo (@jorgecastillo) January 7, 2020
After losing both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill in free agency, the Dodgers have some question marks in their starting rotation. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias seem to be locks to make it, if healthy.
That leaves one spot for the likes of Nelson, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Ross Stripling and Alex Wood. The depth could make Nelson a bit of a long shot to make the Dodgers’ Opening Day rotation.
As has been the case with Stripling in recent years though, there is no downside to building him up as a starter as he can fill in for injured starters if need be, or be utilized as a multi-inning reliever.
If Nelson regains his 2017 form then he could be another under-the-radar signing that winds up being a big weapon for L.A.
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