The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed with Neftali Feliz on a one-year, $3.9 M deal, according to Jeff Passan.
Source: Neftali Feliz, Pirates agree to one-year, $3.9 million deal.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 6, 2016
Jon Heyman says it’s with incentives, and Chris Cotillo says the deal could be worth up to $4.5 M.
feliz gets $3.9M plus incentives #pirates
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) January 6, 2016
Source: Neftali Feliz gets $3.9M guarantee from Pirates, incentives can bring deal into $4.5M range.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 6, 2016
Feliz is a high upside arm, and at one point was one of the best prospects in baseball, being rated in the top ten prospects in Baseball America heading into the 2009 and 2010 seasons. He has spent his entire career as a reliever, with the exception of the 2012 season, when he worked as a starter for the Rangers. In his career, he has a 3.17 ERA and a 4.16 xFIP, with an 8.2 K/9 and a 3.4 BB/9. He ran into some issues last year, posting a combined 6.38 ERA and a 4.42 xFIP with the Rangers and Tigers.
Feliz has a ton of velocity. In his career, he has averaged 95.5 MPH, topping out at 103.4 MPH. That has dropped a bit in recent years, but it’s still strong, with a 94.6 MPH average last year, topping out at 99. He also has a nice mid-80s slider, which has a career .545 OPS against, including a .670 last year.
It’s hard to see Feliz as a rotation candidate. He has never pitched more than 127.1 innings in a season, and that came in 2008. In his time in the majors, he has never pitched more than 69.1 innings, which came in 2010. He threw 59 innings last year between the majors and minors. So he looks like a relief option only, and a guarantee to make the bullpen with his salary.
The addition of Feliz is already interesting. He’s struggled a bit since having Tommy John surgery in late 2012, and there’s a possibility that some of those issues are due to a mechanical change that took place during his rehab. A lot of the Pirates’ success stories in recent years have involved mechanical adjustments, and getting injury prone guys back to what was working for them pre-injury. So that’s something to keep in mind here.
What makes this move even more interesting is what it might signal about the rest of the off-season. The Pirates have added a lot of high velocity relievers to their bullpen already, which isn’t unusual, since most have come through the usual small deals and waiver claims. However, this is the second guy they’ve added who comes with a guaranteed deal of $3+ M, and that’s a bit unusual for them. It’s not unusual in baseball, but the Pirates don’t usually take this approach.
The current bullpen has Mark Melancon and Tony Watson in the late innings. Jared Hughes looks like a strong bet to make the team again. Juan Nicasio was signed to a $3 M deal, and like Feliz, is a hard thrower with a lot of upside who projects for the bullpen. You’d think that Nicasio and Feliz are locks for the bullpen with their salaries. Arquimedes Caminero is another hard thrower who had success with the Pirates last year, and is out of options, which gives him a near guarantee to make the bullpen. That makes six relievers, and leaves a need for a second lefty in the final spot.
There’s also the fact that the Pirates are currently projected to spend $24.2 M on the above relievers, not counting a second lefty, who will take the total to at least just below $25 M. I can’t see the Pirates spending 25-30% of their payroll on the bullpen. Because of this, I’m definitely not ruling out a Mark Melancon trade in the future.
For now, the Pirates add another hard throwing reliever to the mix. The current options who can hit 97 MPH or more? Neftali Feliz, Juan Nicasio, Arquimedes Caminero, Rob Scahill, Yoervis Medina, John Holdzkom, Jorge Rondon, and Curtis Partch.
We’ve got a live Q&A at 1:30 PM today. Any specific questions about this deal will be answered there.