When the list of nontenders came out last Friday, the name most fans flocked too was Ty Wigginton, and rightfully so. The ex-Met had a career year last year, putting up a 128 OPS+ and clubbing 23 homers as the team’s regular third baseman until taking over leftfield for the injured Carlos Lee in August. With the Yanks in need of a utility man to replace, or at least compliment Cody Ransom, Wigginton would be an ideal fit. The problem is that he’d be hella expensive (he made $4.35M and has no reason to take a pay cut) and would likely opt for a full-time gig elsewhere (hellooooooo Twins) instead of sitting on the bench of the Yanks. So while most focused on Wiggington, another name grabbed my attention: ex-Marlins’ righty Joe Nelson.
You might be saying who, and that’s perfectly fine. Nelson didn’t reach the big leagues until age 26 (in 2001), when he made a 2 IP cameo from the Braves. Three years late he threw 2.2 IP for the Red Sox. Two years after that, at age 31, Nelson finally stuck in the big leagues with the Royals, finishing the 2006 season as their closer when Ambi Burgos was demoted to Triple-A. Unfortunately for Nelson, he torn his labrum late in the year, was designated for assignment, and missed all of 2007.
The Marlins grabbed him off the scrap heap, and he used his top-notch changeup to take over TEH 8Th INNiNg!11!one!! role for them after joining the team in May. His stats: 54 IP, 42 H, 60 K, 1.19 WHIP, 2.00 ERA. He showed no platoon split (.619 OPSA vs RHB, .612 vs LHB), pitched better away from the pitcher friendly confines of Dolphins Stadium (2.60 ERA at home, 1.37 on the road), and generated swings-and-missed on 27.6% of the pitches that hitters offered at (Tim Lincecum was at 25.9%). The Marlins did not tender him a contract because they didn’t want to pay him the $800,000 he was asking for, so now he’s shopping his services on the free agent market.
I wouldn’t have taken the time to write this post if I didn’t think Nelson would be a solid addition to the Yanks pen. While it was a strength for them last year, the natural volatility of relievers means back-up plans are needed. Plus it would be nice to have another veteran guy back there; you can’t run Mo, Marte and five kids out there every night. If he’s down for a minor league deal (12-14 teams have already been on him) with an invite to Spring Training, why not?
Use this as your open thread for tonight. Talk Joe Nelson, Browns-Iggles, Knicks-Suns, whatever. Just keep it civil.