The Dodgers and veteran pitcher Jimmy Nelson have agreed to a deal for one year plus a vesting mutual option, according to a person with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly about the contract.
Nelson, a former Milwaukee Brewers starter who missed most of the last two seasons because of shoulder and elbow injuries, is guaranteed to make $1.25 million in 2020 but could make more than $3 million if healthy. The incentive-laden deal could surpass $13 million over two seasons.
Nelson, 30, missed the entire 2018 season because of a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder that was surgically repaired in September 2017. He dealt with elbow trouble last season and pitched in only 10 games, three of them starts, going 0-2 with a 6.95 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 17 walks in 22 innings.
The Brewers did not tender Nelson a contract in December, making the 6-foot-6, 250-pound product of the University of Alabama a free agent. When healthy, Nelson was a durable and effective starters, throwing at least 175 innings in three consecutive seasons from 2015-2017.
Nelson had his best year in 2017, going 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 29 starts, striking out 199 and walking 48 in 175 1/3 innings. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury while diving back to first base after hitting a single in a Sept. 8 game in Wrigley Field.
Nelson’s average fastball velocity according to Fangraphs peaked at 92.9 mph in 2017 and slipped to 92.7 mph last season. He also throws a slider, curve and changeup.
Nelson is expected to compete with youngsters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin for the fifth spot in a Dodgers rotation that lost veteran left-handers Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill to free agency but still returns Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias. Nelson could also pitch in long relief.
The Dodgers’ only significant move this winter has been the signing of free-agent reliever Blake Treinen to a one-year, $10-million contract in December. They offered ace Gerrit Cole an eight-year deal in the $300-million range, but the right-hander signed a nine-year, $324-million deal with the New York Yankees.
The Dodgers are also among the teams to show serious interest in free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit .259 with 37 homers, 94 RBIs and a .900 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for the Atlanta Braves in 2019 and is expected to command a four-year deal for at least $100 million.
The Dodgers have been linked in trade talks for Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor and with the Boston Red Sox in trade talks for right fielder Mookie Betts, the 2018 American League most valuable player and the 2016 AL MVP runnerup, and veteran left-hander David Price, the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner.