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The Dodgers avoided arbitration hearings for the tenth straight season after signing catcher Yasmani Grandal and pitchers Luis Avilan, Josh Fields and Alex Wood all to one-year deals on Friday, the team announced. Earlier in the week, Los Angeles agreed on a $1.125 million contract with Vidal Nuno — the lefty pitcher netted in the trade that sent catcher Carlos Ruiz to the Mariners in November.
Upon learning a few of Nuno’s vitals, many fans were left scratching their heads trying to figure out why the Dodgers’ front office crew would acquire another lefty reliever, especially when the club’s depth is scarce at a few other positions in the lower levels of the minors. And being that Nuno was arbitration eligible and inked a deal for more than $1 million, the Dodgers probably had no intentions on stashing the southpaw away in the minors for that kind of cash from the get go.
So being that Grant Dayton, Adam Liberatore, Avilan, and perhaps even Wood, all have very strong chances of making the Dodgers’ 25-man roster as left-handed bullpen pieces come Opening Day, how exactly does Nuno fit into the team’s plans moving forward?
All of the lefty relievers mentioned above, including Nuno, have options remaining on their contracts, so there’s always the possibility of mixing and matching each or any on the 25-man roster over the course of the regular season. Plus, there’s a very good chance that Wood opens the year as a member of the starting rotation, creating a little bit more room in an otherwise somewhat crowded relief corps.
Like Wood, though, Nuno has no problem taking the mound to start a game, and has already proven at the big league level that he has multi-inning flexibility as a solid long man. He’s definitely a location guy as his heater barely reaches 90 MPH, but he does exhibit relatively decent command in his other offerings — a tight slider, a cutter, a straight change and a slow curve ball.
Originally from National City, California, Nuno was ignored by the big scouts in high school after weighing in at less than 150 lb. at graduation. He ended up playing baseball at Baker University in Kansas where he hit the gym hard and began developing his vast pitching repertoire, ultimately being drafted by the Indians in the 48th round of the 2003 Draft, tipping the scales at 200 lb.-plus.
Nuno made his big league debut for the Yankees in 2013, filling a spot in the starting rotation when Ivan Nova went on the shelf after ripping a ligament in his elbow. The Yanks traded him to the Diamondbacks straight-up for Brandon McCarthy before the 2014 trade deadline, and was eventually sent to the Mariners as part of the Mark Trumbo deal in June of 2015.
Last season, the 29-year-old Nuno made a career-high 55 appearances for Seattle, primarily as a reliever. He threw 58-2/3 innings to the tune of a 3.53 ERA with 51 strikeouts and 11 walks. In 2015 he appeared in 32 games, 10 of which he started.
Because he does have an option year on his contract, there’s a good chance that he begins the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, at least until the Dodgers sort out the big league depth and become more familiar with Nuno’s specific strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned earlier, based on his salary alone, the club likely intends on utilizing him at the big league level at some point, largely considering his versatility.
Nonetheless, if the team does indeed add one or more additional bullpen pieces — a la Greg Holland or Joe Blanton — the spring training clubhouse will undoubtedly be packed full of more than a dozen quality relievers competing for about seven or eight spots on the 25-man roster.