The San Diego Padres have signed INF Chris Nelson to a minor league contract, and will report to Triple-A El Paso, according to MLB.com’s Corey Brock. The deal also contains an August 1st opt-out, according to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.
— Corey Brock (@FollowThePadres) June 20, 2014
Nelson, the 9th overall pick by the Rockies in 2004, was released by the Reds this season, where he batted .274/.330/.363, in 264 plate appearances with their Triple-A affiliate.
Padres fans may recognize Nelson from his time he spent with the Rockies, where he had his most productive years. In 2012 he hit .301 and hit nine home runs with Colorado, and sports a .268/.312/.399 career line.
This move was no doubt made by Josh Brynes to create some competition with the Padres backup infield depth, which has been unproductive so far this season. Ryan Jackson, who was acquired for Jesus Guzman in the offseason, had a great spring training but has been hampered by injuries all year. Alexi Amarista is currently one of many Padres who is batting under the Mendoza Line (.197), and has played questionable defense, allowing 10 errors so far this season, all of which in the infield.
Amarista has been a valuable player to have in his time with San Diego because of his versatility. Just this season alone he has made appearances at five different positions. However, with a team stacked with OF depth, the Padres need to turn to a guy more like Nelson who is a more well-rounded in his defensive and offensive abilities rather than just being versatile.
Now that Jedd Gyorko is on the disabled list though, San Diego was forced to call up young INF Jace Peterson, who is clearly not ready to face big league pitching (.111/.158,.111) but has shown that he has the capability to be a plus defender, while also showing off above-average speed.
Ideally Nelson would go into El Paso for a few weeks, and put up numbers good enough to warrant a call-up, so the Padres can cut ties with Amarista, who has shown he does not have the talent to be anything more than a mediocre super-utility player, and send Peterson back down who is still only 24, letting him continue his development.