The next potential Jays trade target on my list is one that could be a nice grab to fill a bench role on the Jays roster in…
Christopher L. Nelson
5’11″ 185 lbs / Bats Right, Throws Right / 25 years old *Out of Options
Drafted: By the Rockies in 1st rd (9th overall) of the 2004 draft
- Had Tommy John surgery during Senior year of HS.
- Made it as high as #26th on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects list (pre-2005).
- SAL league mid-season all-star in 2006.
- CAL League post-season all-star in 2007.
- Made the AFL Rising Stars list in 2008.
- Played 482 games at SS in the minors, 24 at 2B, 11 at 3B, and 1 in LF.
- Oddly enough, he has had the most success defensively at 2B with a .981 fielding percentage at the position. Meanwhile, his SS play leaves something to be desired as he has hovered within the .918-.947 fielding percentage range at the position throughout his time in the minors.
For those who don’t know who Chris Nelson is, he’s an out-of-options infielder with a ton of potential that may have worn out his welcome in Colorado. In the same way that Yunel Escobar‘s character was questioned in Atlanta, Nelson’s has been questioned in Colorado. The Rockies have been frustrated by what they see as a lack of focus on becoming the best player Nelson could be, and they’ve acted accordingly by bringing in a bunch of players that will play the positions he fits in at for the 2011 season. They brought in Ty Wigginton who can play 1B, 2B, and 3B. They also brought in Jose Lopez who can play both 2B and 3B. Eric Young Jr. also stands to get a lot of time at 2B and in the OF, and finally, both Hector Gomez and Jonathan Herrera may be ahead of Chris Nelson on the depth chart.
The Rockies bench will likely include 4 of the following: a catcher (dependent on who wins the job this spring), either Eric Young Jr or Jose Lopez (again, depending on who wins the job at 2B), 1B Jason Giambi, OF Ryan Spilborghs, and UT Ty Wigginton. They also have 1B Mike Jacobs, OF Wily Taveras, and UT Alfredo Amezaga (who are all on minor league deals) in camp. There is absolutely no space on their bench for Chris Nelson without a deal of some sort, and as said previously, Jonathan Herrera may be their favorite option aside from those mentioned above.
Meanwhile, the Jays don’t really have an offensively talented infielder that would work out well off-the-bench, aside from possibly Mike McCoy who has shown glimpses of being able to handle the job and has done extremely well in AAA. Knowing full well that Alex Anthopoulos wants competition in all areas of the club, adding someone like Nelson would allow for such competition to take place for a possible infield bench spot. With Jose Molina, John McDonald, and an outfielder likely filling the remainder of the bench spot, there is a chance that the last spot will go to an infielder or an outfielder. It all depends on how the Jays want the bench to look overall.
The importance of adding someone like Nelson to the mix is partially due to his versatility within the infield, the health concerns that surround Aaron Hill (concusion, hamstring, quad), and the fact that John McDonald is in the last year of his contract. Although the Jays are likely looking to have Adeiny Hechavarria take over the SS position in 2012, there will still be a requirement to add a utility infielder (or re-sign one). There’s little doubt in my mind that neither Yunel Escobar or Aaron Hill want to fill that role in 2012, so the Jays have to look at other options.
Realistically, there are not many options available to the Jays internally for the 2012 season. Most options within the higher levels of the minors are either low caliber or are going to take over as starters (Hechavarria, Lawrie). Sure, Kellen Sweeney and Dickie Thon could both have outstanding seasons and prove to be quick movers in the minors, but the Jays are no going to rush them, and if they did they wouldn’t do so just to have them sit on the bench. That’s the argument for chasing someone with Nelson’s skills. That and the fact that he provides an offensively talented option off the bench, which is a rarety amongst utility infielders.
Chris Nelson played in 17 games for the Rockies in 2010 and received 25 ABs. He spent 26 innings at 2B, and 14 innings at 3B, making 2 errors while playing 2B. In 25 ABs, he managed 7 hits, 1 double, 1 stolen base, 1 walk, only struck out 4 times, and maintained a .280/.308/.320 line. However, he did spend the majority of 2010 in the minors and his AAA numbers are what interest me most. He managed 30 extra base hits (15 HRs, 12 doubles, and 3 triples) in only 319 ABs while maintaining a very nice .313/.376/.492 line. The most bases Nelson has stolen was 27 in 2007, and he hasn’t stolen more than 7 since that time. More promising, however, is his increased ability to get on base. He increased his OBP from .315 in 2008 (HiA and AA) to .376 in 2010 (AAA).
There’s still a chance that Chris Nelson could earn the 2B spot for the Rockies. However, at this moment part of the way through spring training, it seems more likely that Jose Lopez, Eric Young Jr., or Jonathan Herrera will earn that honor.
Let’s say for one moment that the Jays are in fact interested in Chris Nelson and are willing to make an offer to the Rockies. What could the Jays offer the Rockies to make it worth their while?
Looking through the Rockies lineup, there is one glaring hole that seems to stand out – the first base position. Todd Helton is on his last legs and the Rockies really don’t have many internal options to replace him in the minors at this point, aside from Nolan Arenado who may move to 1B at some point but he’s currently manning 3B and played 2010 in LoA. Someone like David Cooper, therefore, could be an attractive return for the Rockies if they are forced to let Nelson go. If the Jays are really committed to having Adam Lind play 1B long term, then Cooper really has no place to play as a Blue Jay. Add the fact that Michael McDade has earned a promotion to AA and that Ryan Shealy is manning 1B in AAA, and you’ve got a decent scenario brewing up. This may not be a 1-for-1 option, but it is something that could work to each team’s advantage when you consider the fact that Chris Nelson could be lost for before the season begins as the Rockies attempt to move him through waivers.
Another interesting but very far-fetched option is to deal for Nelson as part of a 3-way trade with the Rangers. I’m not sure how this would work out, but we do know that the Rockies have a ton of interest in acquiring Michael Young to man 2B, and the Jays have been known to accomodate such deals recently if it brings them a piece or two that they covet. This would obviously be a complicated deal that could include a multitude of options that I’m not going to sift through right now, but this is the kind of deal that Alex Anthopoulos has become accustomed to making. It may be done in 2 separate deals, or directly, but I do believe that someone like Chris Nelson could be one of the targets of the Jays in such a deal.
Not a fan of Chris Nelson‘s yet? Watch him steal home for the winning run against Nick Masset of the Reds (video link included in article). He’s an electric player with a ton of skill who could do a world of good from the Jays bench.
I do believe that there’s a good case to be made for the Jays to nab someone of Chris Nelson’s pedigree. Sure, he has had some hard luck in terms of health while playing in the minors. But, his skills are unquestionable, he has proven to be an intelligent and electric player, and he is someone that I would be happy to see in a Jays uniform coming off-the-bench in 2011.