Brewers free agent reliever target #7: RHP Jimmy Nelson
Bring Jimmy home! The former 2nd round pick of the Brewers in 2010 was the Crew’s top pitching prospect, worked his way up to the big leagues, and was a key piece in the Brewers rotation for a number of years, being seen as a potential ace of future contending Brewers teams. He was finally reaching that potential in 2017, having a breakout season before an unfortunate dive into first base tore up his throwing shoulder.
Nelson, 32, still hasn’t been able to get all the way back to that ace-level starter and he likely won’t. Injuries have bothered him in every season since, with back issues popping up recently.
He had a bit of a bounce back in 2021 with the Dodgers, posting a 1.86 ERA in 28 appearances, 27 of them out of the bullpen, for Los Angeles. Injuries cut his season short again, but he proved he can still be a productive pitcher when he’s on the mound.
Perhaps a return to Milwaukee, where he began his career and found success the first time, can continue to help him find success again, this time in a bullpen role. His days as a regular starter are likely over and with the Brewers current rotation depth, they don’t need him to start anyways.
The Brewers would be banking on Nelson to stay healthy, and if they sign him, they’d likely also look to bring in another veteran arm as well to ensure the depth is strong.
Brewers free agent reliever target #8: RHP Collin McHugh
Collin McHugh is perhaps most known for his time in the starting rotation with the Houston Astros. At 34 years old, McHugh has been seeing more time in the bullpen than the rotation in recent years, moving to the bullpen starting in 2018.
McHugh made seven starts in 37 appearances in 2021 with the Tampa Bay rays, posting a stellar 1.55 ERA in 64 IP with 74 strikeouts. He kept the ball in the ballpark and can serve in a variety of roles.
Currently, the Brewers don’t have much need for him to help out with the rotation, but throughout the course of a season, opportunities for spot starts may arise and McHugh would be an excellent back up option for that rotation if need be.
Despite his fastball velocity not being very strong, McHugh is a bit of an analytics darling, ranking in the 90th percentile or above in Fastball Spin, BB%, xSLG, HardHit%, xwOBA, xERA, and Barrel%. He also sits in the high 80s in the rest of the top categories on Statcast. Basically what those stats mean is that McHugh is a quality pitcher and he would fit in well with the Milwaukee Brewers.
If any team will see McHugh’s advanced numbers and recognize the talent there, it’s the Brewers. What role he fits into may change or have to be figured out, but getting him on the pitching staff looks like it would be a net positive.