Last week during my holiday vacation, the Rays made what could be a very important signing for 2009. Former Marlins righthanded reliever Joe Nelson agreed to join the American League Champions to help compensate for the losses of Trever Miller and Scott Dohmann. He has finalized a deal for one year and $1.3 million. Last year, in his mid30s, Nelson broke out with the Florida Marlins, pitching 54 innings in relief with 60 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.00. The onetime Atlanta Braves prospect figures to add lateinning contributions alongside the likes of Grant Balfour, Dan Wheeler, Chad Bradford and J.P. Howell.
The Nelson signing should be a good example of cheap, yet productive free agent deals. He brings yet another pitching style into the diverse Rays bullpen, as well as another strong arm that can shut down games when necessary. (We could have used him last season.) He obviously has a strong upside if last season proves anything. The Marlins’ loss is the Rays’ gain and we didn’t need $200 million to get it. Until next time and next year, go Rays.