The Cincinnati Reds had no reasonable expectation to think that All-Star, Gold Glove second baseman Brandon Phillips would be forced to the sidelines for two months after playing in at least 140 games every year he has worn a Reds uniform, but when that did happen their emergency plan — Chris Nelson — was long gone.
Nelson, who went to the same Stone Mountain, Ga. high school (Redan) as Phillips, looked like he had a good shot to stick with the Reds out of spring training. When he didn’t make the club, he opted to remain with the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate Louisville Bats. Nelson hit .274 through 64 games with the Bats before finally opting out of his deal with the Reds to sign another minor league deal last month with the San Diego Padres.
Nelson might be unlikely to opt out of his deal with the Padres now, but if he were promised the Reds’ starting second baseman job, he might be willing to come back.
The Reds have another former major league second baseman in Louisville in Rueben Gotay who has 151 big league starts at the position under his belt. Gotay, now 31, has an .801 OPS with 15 home runs for the Bats this year and posted an .804 OPS with 16 homers and 89 RBIs last year in the minors for the St. Louis Cardinals.
While neither Nelson nor Gotay can effectively replace the all-around performance the Reds got from Phillips game in and game out, either is an improvement in power at the plate over the Reds’ current stash of second basemen in Ramon Santiago, Skip Schumaker and Kristopher Negron.