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May 19, 2009 at 8:48 AM

Mariners sign former Brewers lefty slugger Brad Nelson to minor league deal

We’ll be doing an episode of Geoff Baker Live! today at 6 p.m., leading into tonight’s game with the Angels.
No, it’s not Prince Fielder. But this guy tips the scales at 266 pounds, plays first base and the outfield and can also be a DH in the American League. We’re talking about onetime prospect Brad Nelson, drafted in the fourth round in 2001 and now acquired from Milwaukee by onetime Brewers executive Jack Zduriencik.
Nelson was outrighted to Class AAA last Thursday, but refused the assignment and opted to become a free agent. Zduriencik quickly pounced. No doubt, going to a place where the GM knows your talent inside and out was a heavy lure for Nelson, who was hitless in 21 ABs with two walks in a limited major league stint this season.
His progress was clearly blocked in Milwaukee by Fielder. And now, it’s going to be blocked in Seattle by Russell Branyan and Ken Griffey Jr.
“He’s got tremendous power, he’s left-handed,” Zduriencik told me in a 9:30 a.m. call I’m now using to update our original post with. “There are certain things you can never have enough of in this game. Pitching is one, power is another. And when you get the opportunity to add some of these things, you find a way to make it work. You never know in this game.”
In fact, the Class AAA Tacoma team could probably beat its parent Mariners club in a home run derby right about now with all the power bats clogging up the minor league ranks. A good problem to have, but the M’s could probably use some of that power at a middle infield position, or at catcher (Jeff Clement has a bad knee, so he doesn’t count) right about now instead of all the 1B/DH/OF types. Those are not positions the Mariners are in need of upgrading at the moment.
So, why clog things up even more?
Well, a lefty bat is something the team could use more of at some point and Griffey and Branyan won’t be here forever. In fact, a realist could say that if the Mariners fall out of contention, which they are quickly doing, then Branyan would make an excellent mid-summer trade candidate. He’s got 10 home runs already and is exactly the type of mid-season pick-up a contending team would like.
And if the M’s wanted to re-sign Branyan over the winter, there would be nothing stopping them from doing so after renting him out the final two months of this year. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, but that’s one reason you make this deal. Another is that you try to accumulate depth. If Griffey goes down, you’ve got another lefty — Mike Carp and Bryan LaHair as well — who could step in from AAA.
And at less than one year of major league service time, Nelson would be under club control for another five-plus years if moved up to the bigs.
“It’s a challenge, no question,” Zduriencik said of finding the minor leaguers the right number of at-bats.
Nelson will play “all over the place” to get him those at-bats, Zduriencik confirmed.
And it didn’t cost a whole lot. This time last winter, you might have had to give up a player to get Nelson. Not any more.
“In the end, there wasn’t much of a risk here,” Zduriencik said.
Photo Credit: AP



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