MARCH 17: Nelson receives a $700K salary in 2022, reports Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (on Twitter). The club option is valued at $1.1MM and contains possible performance bonuses.
MARCH 15: Right-hander Jimmy Nelson appears to be back with the Dodgers, as he’s in their clubhouse this morning, tweets Pedro Moura of the L.A. Times. Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic tweets that a locker for Nelson is set up. Nelson signed a one-year, Major League contract with a club option that covers the 2023 season, tweets Ardaya.
It’s not clear whether Nelson, a CAA client, is back on a minor league deal or whether he inked a big league deal. If it’s the latter, it’d presumably grant the Dodgers control over Nelson’s 2023 season as well, given that he’s unlikely to pitch for most of the current season. Nelson had Tommy John and flexor repair surgery last August, which should sideline him for the vast majority or the entirety of the upcoming 2022 season.
When healthy, Nelson was a powerhouse in the L.A. bullpen. In 29 innings of relief, Nelson posted a 1.86 ERA while punching out 37.9% of the 116 batters he faced. The former Brewers righty averaged 94 mph on his heater and logged a hefty 14.9% swinging-strike rate during that brief run. It was a notable turnaround from an ugly 2019 campaign that saw Nelson post a near-7.00 ERA in a similar sample of innings while attempting to mend from a notable injury.
Early in his career, Nelson looked well on his way to establishing himself as a key member of the rotation in Milwaukee. From 2015-17, he made 91 starts, tallied 532 innings and notched a collective 4.08 earned run average. Nelson’s 2017 season, in particular, had the makings of a potential high-end starter. In 175 1/3 frames that year, Nelson posted a 3.49 ERA with a big 27.3% strikeout rate against a tiny 6.6% walk rate.
Unfortunately, however, Nelson suffered a torn labrum and a partially torn rotator cuff while sliding into second base in an early September game during that 2017 season. He underwent surgery to repair that shoulder — a procedure that wiped out not only his final month of the ’17 season but his entire 2018 campaign. Nelson returned to the Brewers in 2019 but was limited to just 22 innings by an elbow injury. Milwaukee non-tendered him following the season.
It’s a disheartening sequence of major injuries that have clearly derailed the career of a highly talented hurler. Nelson will spend the bulk of the 2022 season rehabbing, but by the time he makes it back to the mound, he’ll be 33 years old with just 51 total MLB innings under his belt since injuring that shoulder as a 28-year-old. Hopefully, Nelson will be able to put the ongoing arm issues behind him, as it’s clear that when he’s healthy enough to take the hill, he can be an impact part of a big league bullpen.