The Dodgers announced that they have declined their 2023 club option on right-hander Jimmy Nelson. They could have retained him at a $1.1MM salary but will instead let him return to the open market. There was no buyout attached to the option.
Nelson spent many years as a starter with the Brewers before being derailed by injuries. He missed the 2018 and 2020 seasons entirely and only threw 22 innings in 2019, putting up a 6.95 ERA in that brief window when he was healthy.
However, he seemed to get things back on track with the Dodgers in 2021. He made 28 appearances that season, throwing 29 innings with a 1.86 ERA. He walked 11.9% of batters faced but struck out 37.9% of them, well above that year’s 24% average for relievers. Unfortunately, that strong bounceback season was cut short when Nelson required Tommy John and flexor repair surgery in August.
Despite the surgery, the Dodgers re-signed him for the 2022 campaign, knowing he was unlikely to contribute that season. He received a league-minimum $700K salary while rehabbing, with the Dodgers able to trigger the $1.1MM option for 2023. The league minimum salary is jumping to $720K next year, meaning that $1.1MM figure is only $380K above. For a team that’s typically among the biggest spenders in the league, that would be a small risk to take on a pitcher who was so dominant when last healthy. However, the club has opted not to take that chance.
There’s no financial risk here for the Dodgers, since there is no buyout on the option. Their only risk is losing Nelson to a rival team now that he has the ability to pursue offers from all 29 other clubs. Though it’s also possible that he and the club could reconnect on another deal.