The Full Nelson Plan

Dave · June 20, 2008 at 1:10 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Now that the Mariners have officially admitted that this season is toast and are looking towards putting a competitive team on the field for the rest of the season while realizing that the playoffs aren’t a reality they can aspire to, I have a pair of suggestions for interim GM Lee Pelekoudas.

The main silver lining in the cloud of a season gone wrong is that you get months to evaluate players at the big league level that you wouldn’t ordinarily be able to give full time jobs to. You basically get to use the rest of the year like an extended tryout, and you can take some flyers on guys that may turn out to be useful pieces down the line while other teams focus on squeezing every last win out of their rosters. Now, because the M’s did a pretty terrible job of stocking the Tacoma team with useful minor league veterans, the M’s don’t really have anyone down in Triple-A that they can look at in this way, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still have that opportunity.

So, here are a couple of players that you could acquire without giving up the farm, and you could see whether they were pieces that might fit into your plans for 2009.

Nelson Cruz, OF, Texas

If there’s one thing the Texas Rangers don’t need, it’s an outfielder. With Josh Hamilton, David Murphy, Marlon Byrd, Brandon Boggs, and Frank Catalanatto, they have a crowded group already. They’ve passed over Cruz each time they needed to call up a hitter from Triple-A, and he’s pretty clearly out of their plans. However, he really deserves another look in the big leagues, and he’s doing all he can to make sure that teams take notice while he’s down in the PCL.

He’s currently hitting .356/.459/.712 and owning the title of best hitter in the Pacific Coast League. He’s gotten more selective (16.1% BB%) while maintaining his contact and power, and right now, he’s basically a more polished version of Wladimir Balentien’s skillset. Cruz is, right now, what we want Balentien to become. He turns 28 in a few weeks, so he’s not going to get any better and will likely only have a couple of years to offer a major league club that gives him a real shot, but the M’s shouldn’t walk away from the chance to pick a legitimate power hitting outfielder for nothing and pay him the league minimum for several years.

The A’s and Brewers have hit gold by pulling AAAA sluggers Jack Cust and Russ Branyan out of the minors, and the Mariners have the chance to do the same thing here with Cruz. This is a team that could use outfield depth and real power, and Cruz offers both.

Brad Nelson, 1B, Milwaukee

If there’s a worse organization on earth to be a minor league first baseman in than the Brewers, I’m not sure what it would be. With Prince Fielder entrenched at the major league level, Matt LaPorta coming up behind him, and no DH in the National League, Nelson doesn’t have any real future in Milwaukee. And, at age 25, he has to establish himself as a major league player pretty soon before he gets tagged with the dreaded AAAA player label.

A former top prospect, Nelson has struggled with injuries and inconsistency before re-establishing himself this year as a potential big league hitter. He’s dramatically cut his strikeout rate from 22.1% last year to 14.3% this year, and he’s now drawn more bases on balls than he’s accumulated whiffs. His .312/.423/.514 line shows a player with some real ability, though next to no star potential. As a left-handed hitter with knowledge of the strike zone and some pull power, he’s the kind of first baseman that they should be looking at for the rest of 2008. If he can put together a .270/.350/.450 mark, he’d make himself an option at first base for 2009 and give the team another lefty power bat in the organization.

To acquire Nelson Squared, the team wouldn’t have to part with more than a couple of mid-level prospects, and they have the playing time available to give both looks as everyday players the rest of the season. Cruz and Nelson could easily replace Sexson and Vidro on the roster, with Ibanez shifting to DH, and make the team both better and more interesting for the rest of the year.

You’ve got a chance to take some steps forward, Lee. Bring us a pair of Nelsons and give us a reason to watch this team on a daily basis.

Comments

34 Responses to “The Full Nelson Plan”

  1. robbbbbb on June 20th, 2008 1:14 pm

    Yeah! That makes sense. It’s the Bucky Jacobson treatment.

    These are the kind of guys that you should be able to get for a single-A pitcher, right? I mean, their teams shouldn’t be looking for much more than org depth in return, and the M’s have done a good job of stocking the lower levels of the system under Bob Fontaine.

  2. msb on June 20th, 2008 1:17 pm

    you scared me there. all I could think of was Jeff.

  3. coasty141 on June 20th, 2008 1:34 pm

    What about Victor Diaz? Does he deserve a chance? I’m sure Dave has a opinion on him and that he’s not being overlooked. I just don’t know lots about him, but he seems like a poor mans Nelson Cruz.

  4. okobojicat on June 20th, 2008 1:45 pm

    Seriously Dave, you want to put another left-handed hitting slugger* from Iowa on the M’s roster? Clement and Nelson together, hitting 6/7 would be awesome. BTW, Nelson was one hell of a high school pitcher (and he was a lot better pitcher than hitter), coach severely overpitched him. Damn you Garrigan.

    *slugger is interchangeable with baseclogger.

  5. BaltimoreDave on June 20th, 2008 1:47 pm

    Great ideas. Your mention of Cruz reminded me of another slugger in the Texas organization who’s blocked big-time: Jason Botts.

    He’s hitting .242/.342/.515 in limited time this year at Oklahoma, but his line last year of .320/.436/.545 in the PCL is representative of his mix of power and patience. Switch hitter, has played 1B and in the OF (though I’m not sure how well). He’s never hit well in his few big-league stints, but you could take chances on many worse players.

  6. Spanky on June 20th, 2008 1:51 pm

    Dave…heck, maybe the club should just hire the you and let you make all the roster moves for a year. I’d be all for it.

    You know, I see smart clubs do this type of thing all the time. They pick up players that at first you wonder “why did they do that” and then a year later you see that player filling a hole for them. The M’s on the other hand, just dump players they deem useless for nothing.

    Thanks for the insights! Here’s to some smart moves over the next few months!

  7. TheEmrys on June 20th, 2008 1:57 pm

    I’m a bit leery of giving away more of our prospects, even mid-level ones. At this point, is there any chance of (rather than waiving) sending a player (Vidro, Sexson, Cairo, whoever) over while picking up all or the majority of their contract?

  8. coasty141 on June 20th, 2008 1:57 pm

    #5 I don’t think Botts is with Texas any longer.

  9. Max Power on June 20th, 2008 2:03 pm

    Is there any sense yet as to whether ownership is going to give Pelekoudas the ok to spend more money (and if so, how much?) or is he going to need to move salary in order to add anyone onto the MLB roster?

    I can see them balking at throwing more money at a collapsing MLB roster which I think would make it harder for him to experiment with the types of moves you’re outlining.

  10. don52656 on June 20th, 2008 2:11 pm

    Another guy I’d like to see given a shot is Justin Huber, who was highly rated as a Royal prospect, was passed by Billy Butler and traded to San Diego. I believe they just sent him down to the minors. He’s plays 1B and isn’t going to get a chance with Adrian Gonzalez on the major league club.

  11. BaltimoreDave on June 20th, 2008 2:14 pm

    coasty –

    I thought it strange that his last game played per the OK site was June 4 (or 5, something like that…) I’ll have to search to see where he is. Regardless of where he’s playing today, it isn’t in the majors and I think he should still get a shot.

  12. rcc on June 20th, 2008 2:27 pm

    Todd Linden, 28 yrs. old, a switch hitting outfielder, formerly of the Giants, had a very good spring with the A’s, but was let go, and picked up by the Cleveland Indians in a minor league deal. He would be worth a look to see if he can put it together now…..or what about Doyle? Did he go down to the Phillies triple A team?

  13. C. Cheetah on June 20th, 2008 2:32 pm

    Dave,
    Why do you do this to yourself and us?
    I mean using logic and research to try to come up with cheap and easy ways to help the team and tomorrow??? These are the M’s for pelekoudas sake.

  14. TumwaterMike on June 20th, 2008 2:32 pm

    First of all I would like to say I WAS WRONG–I supported the off-season moves that the M’s made and kept saying wait until the season started. I did and now I see what they have. I felt the wheels coming off when they released Norton instead of Vidro, that made no sense to me. Anyway lets not dwell on the past. My suggestion would be to jettison Sexson and Vidoro. You would then move Rauuuuuuuuuuul to 1st base. Maybe have Cairo play there once in a while for tough lefties. Move Bloomquist back to his more natural postion as a middle infielder. Give Jeremy Reed a shot in Center. I would then call up Victor Diaz and Michael Saunders. They would platoon in Left with Saunders playing center now and then to spell Reed. Its only 90 games lets see what we have. In the meantime if you can get some serviceable players via the draft or waiver wire go for it. I would quickly sign Fields as soon as the College WS is over. Once JJ is back I would move Morrow to A or AA and start grooming him as a starter. Once Fields is signed and looks like he’s ready for MLB put him in the bullpen. Lets see what we have. Morrow would proably be ready to start by July 31 and we could then jettison Washburn and or Bautista.

  15. JI on June 20th, 2008 2:32 pm

    If there’s a worse organization on earth to be a minor league first baseman in than the Brewers, I’m not sure what it would be.

    The Cardinals?

  16. TumwaterMike on June 20th, 2008 2:34 pm

    In the meantime if you can get some serviceable players via the draft or waiver wire go for it.

    I meant to say via a trade or the waiver wire—sorry.

  17. edgar for mayor on June 20th, 2008 2:38 pm

    Nice write up. Here’s hoping teh front office is reading.

  18. Ballfour on June 20th, 2008 2:50 pm

    I’m curious on what would be better. Releasing/Trading players on the M’s roster now and get whatever we can for them, or waiting for the new GM to come in and make his own moves. Or is it too late by then? I’d hate to lose out on the best GM prospect because he wasn’t able to make the deals himself and get ‘his type of players’.

  19. TumwaterMike on June 20th, 2008 2:59 pm

    #18 At this point any players you acquire would probably only help you the rest of the year. We have some pretty awesome pitching in the minors and you could deal a couple of them for some quality players and then, with Sexson and Vidro gone, you would have some money free for free agents. The new GM could still get what he wants. I am looking forward to next years player draft. The M’s might be able to get someone who can be an instant impact player. We’ll see.

  20. Donovan on June 20th, 2008 3:17 pm

    The M’s would be wise to consider Dan Johnson, former A’s 1B, currently toiling for Tampa Bay’s AAA squad.

    Pecota had him pegged at a .252/.352./.427 season, worth 2.3 wins above replacement level.

    Not quite as attractive as Brad Nelson, because of the age difference, but another player that shouldn’t cost much in terms of acquisition or salary, and that would be a clear upgrade with the potential of a few years worth of use.

  21. Breadbaker on June 20th, 2008 3:24 pm

    Another place where AAA 1B/DH/corner outfielders get blocked is Colorado, because of the Helton contract. Baseball Prospectus listed a bunch of guys who were likely to be needing outplacement in order to make the majors.

  22. marc w on June 20th, 2008 3:48 pm

    I like the point made in 3 – the issue here isn’t what Cruz/Diaz give you over, say, Reed and Bloomquist, it’s what Cruz gives you above and beyond what Diaz does. Diaz is free, has a better LD rate in the PCL, and plays in a tougher home park. He’s also fared better in his MLB trials (140 games, 450+ ABs) than Cruz.

    Maybe Cruz has figured something out, but I don’t know that the transaction costs (as minimal as they may be) justify getting a copy of the slugging corner OF we’ve already got.

    On 1B options, what about Brian Myrow? Ex-indy leaguer, 32 years old or so, but really commands the strike zone. It’s saying something that Brad Nelson might provide more power, but hey, neither of these guys is really a slugging Branyon/Cust type anyway. If you’re going for an OBP guy, I’d guess Myrow might cost even less. Further, Nelson’s k:bb ratio looks out of whack with his career numbers, whereas Myrow’s seems ‘normal’ for him. Myrow’s *career* OBP is nearly .430, whereas Nelson’s is .350.
    Thoughts?

  23. PositivePaul on June 20th, 2008 3:48 pm

    As a Tacoma Rainiers fan, I’d LOVE to see Nelson Cruz in an M’s uniform. Anything we can do to get him out of killing the Rainiers on a consistent basis is mighty fine by me. He’s killed the R’s as much as Palmeiro killed the M’s…

  24. marinerfaninpdx on June 20th, 2008 3:53 pm

    I sometimes start to think I know baseball, then I come to this blog and read some really smart baseball talk. Those are great suggestions, Dave.

  25. smb on June 20th, 2008 4:02 pm

    The Full Nelson Plan sounds like something that we’ll know is in the works as soon as we hear Yamuachi’s entrance music.

  26. Dave on June 20th, 2008 4:06 pm

    Victor Diaz is a DH. He can’t play the field to save his life. He’s not a major league player. Cruz is.

    As for Myrow/Nelson, a 32-year-old with no power isn’t the kind of player this org needs to give playing time to. Nelson actually has some potential for a peak in the next few years – Myrow’s useless.

  27. Ralph_Malph on June 20th, 2008 4:09 pm

    Move Bloomquist back to his more natural postion as a middle infielder

    In place of whom? Why would you replace a guy who can hit with a guy who absolutely can’t, and is no better defensively besides?

  28. marc w on June 20th, 2008 4:27 pm

    “As for Myrow/Nelson, a 32-year-old with no power isn’t the kind of player this org needs to give playing time to.”

    I’m not sure either is. But Nelson’s been in AA/AAA for years and has struggled, really struggled, to nudge his OPS above .800. He’s not exactly a power hitter himself, and in plate discipline, he’s far and away worse than Myrow.
    Nelson’s now got over 610 games in the high minors. Why should we trust this ~60 game sample over that? His K:BB ratio last year was 98:31 – now, it’s 37:42?

    Long term, neither of these guys is really in the plans, so I’d be more comfortable going with the extreme OBP guy for the rest of this lost season instead of taking on what looks at first glance to be Milwaukee’s Brian LaHair (right down to the inability to hit lefties). This comes down to how you evaluate his great first half in 2008… are scouts saying that he looks like a changed man up there?

  29. Dave on June 20th, 2008 4:42 pm

    Nelson’s a real player who has had severe back problems and missed a lot of time due to injuries. He’s 25 – it’s far from unheard of from talented players finding their strides in their mid-20s.

    Myrow is totally and utterly useless. I know he’s got a high OBP, but he’s 32 – there’s no upside there whatsoever.

    I’m not sure I see you point, Marc, and usually, I do.

  30. mymrbig on June 20th, 2008 10:26 pm

    Unrelated to the full Nelson plan, but [deleted, unrelated to the Full Nelson Plan]

  31. NBarnes on June 20th, 2008 11:44 pm

    This would be way too interesting compared to more ABs sacrificed to the Chaos God of Futility by way of Sexson and Vidro, so it’s unlikely to happen.

    But wouldn’t it be great fun?

  32. Rain Delay on June 21st, 2008 8:39 am

    #8: Botts was recently sold to Japan by the Rangers.

  33. Gomez on June 21st, 2008 10:50 am

    I know it doesn’t involve an MLB regular or any other key player, so it wouldn’t be a big deal, but do the Rangers make a deal with a team in their division involving Nelson?

  34. TumwaterMike on June 21st, 2008 12:24 pm

    #27-Bloomquist would still be on the bench but would be available to relieve Lopez or Betancourt. Maybe he could play 2nd on occasion and move Jose to DH.

    #26-All I’m saying is that if you release Sexson and Vidro and bring up Diaz and Saunders. You get to see what you have with these two players and it won’t cost you any prospects. If they work out they can be in future plans. If they don’t you can still go out and get players to fill your needs with free agents or trading prospects. The M’s have built up a pretty good farm and I don’t want to see them start giving away players just to try and get good in a hurry. I would rather they build their team like the A’s or Angels, who seem to be able to bring up a prospect every year that does well for them.

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