General manager Brian Cashman spent the offseason (and parts of spring training) picking up aging veterans presumably on the tail ends of their respective careers to fill the holes left by the injured stars of the team.
This type of decision-making has proved risky at times, but Cashman has made smart choices more often than not. Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells are just a few examples of older players that have produced when they put on the pinstripes.
A few days ago, though, the Yankees acquired second baseman Chris Nelson from the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named later and cash. At 27 years old, Nelson represents a nice change from the 30-plus-year-olds that have become staples of the Yankee lineup.
Nelson isn't just your run-of-the-mill, 27-year-old second baseman, though. Nelson actually has some potential at the plate and could prove to be more valuable to the Yankees than initially expected.
Last season in Colorado, Nelson hit .301/.352/.458 with nine home runs and 53 RBI in 345 at-bats. Given a full slate of 550 at-bats or so, Nelson would have been on track to drive in close to 80 runs.
Some will try to argue that his offensive numbers were inflated because he played half of his home games at Coors Field. For a power hitter, that would be a correct assertion. Not for Nelson, though. He's a line-drive hitter that can occasionally lift a few out.
Granted, Nelson hasn't performed well in limited time this season. In 66 at-bats, Nelson has hit just .242/.282/.318 with two triples and four RBI. He's walked just four times compared to 19 strikeouts.
Nelson is unlike any acquisition Cashman has made over the past few seasons. While he doesn't boast superstar potential, Nelson does have the skill set to become an above-average major league infielder.
He can play both second and third, though his primary position is second. With Robinson Cano in the fold now (and, for the Yankees' sake, hopefully beyond), Nelson likely won't have a future with the Yankees there.
The same goes at third. With Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis entrenched there for the 2013 season (even though both are on the disabled list), Nelson will be out of a spot when everyone's healthy.
If Nelson hits, then he could potentially take the role currently being filled by Jayson Nix. Nelson has far more offensive potential and would be an upgrade at the dish. Nelson hasn't played shortstop all that often (just three games in his career), but he can play there if need be.
The Yankees can only hope that Nelson re-establishes his value by the trade deadline. Many teams would be interested in an above-average offensive middle infielder. The Yankees could conceivably pick up a decent arm for the bullpen if he gets himself back on track.
Nelson was a great pickup for the Yankees. He's young, can hit and has the potential to be a quality player. If nothing else, Nelson provides the team with a ton of options moving forward. With so many injuries on the roster, a player like that is invaluable.
I give Cashman an "A" for this acquisition.
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