Morning Report: Michael Feliz Teaches Us an Important Lesson as the Trade Deadline Approaches

The Pirates have a promising bullpen right now. They’ve seen good results from Kyle Crick, Edgar Santana, Richard Rodriguez, and a few others. They have all of those guys under team control through at least the 2023 season. They have Felipe Vazquez under team control through 2023 as well.

An optimistic view of the current situation says that the Pirates could be set for a long time with a very talented bullpen.

But there’s a reason why that should only be an optimistic view, and not yet a realistic view, despite the good numbers. That reason: Michael Feliz.

Feliz was optioned to the minors yesterday, in part because the Pirates needed an extra arm. But it’s not like it was a difficult decision to send him down over anyone else.

From April 1st through May 20th, Feliz was dominant. He had an 0.90 ERA, a 2.94 xFIP, an 11.7 K/9, and a 2.7 BB/9 in 20 innings. When I wrote about how the Pirates needed someone to step up in the eighth inning behind Vazquez, many pointed to Feliz, and I even thought he could be that guy.

But then Feliz started to struggle. His next 20.2 innings saw him post an 8.27 ERA and a 5.32 xFIP, with a 9.15 K/9 and a 4.79 BB/9. That pitcher who was so dominant for six weeks was suddenly looking unreliable over the next two months.

I wouldn’t count Feliz out completely in the future. The point here is that you can’t count on him right now as a reliable bullpen option, and definitely can’t count on him as a reliable 8th inning guy, which should be a warning against short-term success.

Kyle Crick has looked great in the last six weeks. His ERA is 0.56 and his xFIP is 3.38, which has earned him a spot as the team’s 8th inning guy.

Edgar Santana has done the same, with a 1.80 ERA and a 2.28 xFIP in a little over the last month.

Richard Rodriguez actually had a 2.38 ERA and a 2.53 xFIP in his first two months, before putting up a 3.57 ERA and a 4.36 xFIP over his last month. The latter numbers aren’t bad, but aren’t what he had to start the year.

These three pitchers all show promise, due to the results we’ve seen in a small sample size. But it’s still a small sample size, and none of them have any MLB history or success to back up their recent work as being legit in the long run.

That’s why the Pirates need to add a reliable 8th inning guy behind Vazquez. Someone like Keone Kela would be the perfect addition for them. Even if they don’t end up contending for the Wild Card this year, they still would have him for two more seasons. If someone from the Crick/Santana/Rodriguez group steps up during that time as a legit late inning option, then it wouldn’t be a bad situation.

At worst in that situation, you have at least three strong late inning relievers, which is very valuable in today’s game for shutting down games when you have a lead after six innings. If the Pirates needed to, they could trade one of those guys and get a good return, based on the values of relievers.

The more likely situation is that you add some security to your bullpen. You remove a question mark from the team. You don’t have to go into the 2019 season wondering who is going to get the ball to Vazquez, and wondering if those young relievers are legit. And if they are as good as they’ve been pitching lately, then the Pirates will have a pretty nice strength in the bullpen — something that worked out well for them during their last run from 2013-15.


Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates won 5-4 over the New York Mets on Friday night. Trevor Williams will get the start today, coming off of his last outing on July 23rd when he threw six shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians. The Mets will counter with right-hander Jacob deGrom, who has a 1.71 ERA in 131.1 innings, with 159 strikeouts and an 0.97 WHIP. He gave up two runs over eight innings against the San Diego Padres in his last start back in June.

The minor league schedule includes Mitch Keller’s fourth start with Indianapolis, and he will be matched up with former Pirate, Brandon Cumpton. Keller has a 2.29 WHIP and a .352 BAA in his time with Indianapolis. Altoona starter Eduardo Vera has not allowed more than two runs in a start since June 24th. Bradenton had game two of a doubleheader postponed yesterday, so they will try for two again today with Dario Agrazal making his second start back from injury in the first game and Blake Weiman scheduled for the second game. Agrazal threw three shutout innings on Monday.

West Virginia’s Travis MacGregor allowed four runs over five innings in his last start, which is the most runs he’s given up in a game this season. Bristol’s Shane Baz allowed one run over five innings in his last start, while striking out nine batters. The DSL Pirates2 have a suspended game to finish before playing their regularly scheduled game.

MLB: Pittsburgh (54-51) vs Mets (42-58) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Trevor Williams (4.11 ERA, 72:37 SO/BB, 105.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (56-47) vs Buffalo (46-53) 7:05 PM  (season preview)
Probable starter: Mitch Keller (10.66 ERA, 20:10 SO/BB, 12.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (52-47) vs Binghamton (48-56) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (4.75 ERA, 31:10 SO/BB, 53.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (48-51) @ Florida (43-55) 4:00 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Dario Agrazal (0.00 ERA, 2:0 SO/BB, 3.0 IP) and Blake Weiman (4.50 ERA, 52:13 SO/BB, 74.0 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (51-48) vs Asheville (42-59) 6:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Travis MacGregor (3.09 ERA, 63:13 SO/BB, 46.2 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (15-25) vs Brooklyn (21-18) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: TBD (0.00 ERA, 0:0 SO/BB, 0.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (16-19) @ Elizabethton (21-12) 6:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Shane Baz (4.68 ERA, 38:18 SO/BB, 32.2 IP)

GCL: Pirates (12-17) vs Tigers East 10:00 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (23-24) vs Rays2 10:30 AM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (19-27) vs Royals2 10:30 AM  (season preview)


From Altoona on Thursday night. We start with Will Craig’s 18th homer…

…and end with the homer that ended the game. Bryan Reynolds with a walk-off shot


7/27: Pirates option Michael Feliz to Indianapolis. Recall Alex McRae

7/27: Jin-De Jhang assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/26: Deon Stafford placed on disabled list. Rafelin Lorenzo activated from West Virginia DL.

7/26: Francisco Cervelli activated from DL. Jacob Stalling optioned to Indianapolis.

7/25: Pirates recall Adam Frazier. Casey Sadler optioned to Indianapolis.

7/24: Erich Weiss assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

7/23: Cody Bolton placed on disabled list. Oddy Nunez demoted to West Virginia.

7/23: Pirates select contract of Casey Sadler. Max Moroff optioned to Indianapolis. Josh Smoker designated for assignment.

7/23: Nick Burdi assigned to Altoona on rehab.

7/23: Jacob Webb promoted to Bristol. Juan Henriquez assigned to GCL Pirates from Morgantown.

7/23: Will Gardner promoted to Morgantown.

7/22: Bralin Jackson placed on Altoona disabled list.

7/21: Christopher Bostick activated from Indianapolis disabled list. Alfredo Reyes assigned to Altoona.

7/20: Sean Rodriguez activated from disabled list. Tanner Anderson optioned to Indianapolis.

7/19: Pirates release Johan De Jesus and Adonis Pichardo.

7/19: Chris Sharpe placed on West Virginia DL. Robbie Glendinning promoted from Morgantown.


Three former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two trades of note. We start with the players and two of them were born on this date in 1867 and they both pitched for the 1890 team, which was the worst in franchise history. Duke Esper and Bill Day couldn’t help a team that went 23-113, as they combined to go 0-8 in their eight starts. Esper also pitched for the Pirates in 1892 and went 2-0 in three starts for a much better team. The other player born on this date is Carmelo Martinez, who joined the Pirates 100 years after the other two players. He was with two pennant winners during the 1990-91 seasons He didn’t last long with the Pirates, who acquired him at the end of August 1990 and traded him away the following May.

The trades on this date include first baseman Gus Suhr for pitcher Max Butcher, which was a one-sided deal as far as career stats, with Suhr being one of the best first baseman in team history. In 1939, he was near the end of his career and the Pirates shipped him to the Phillies for Butcher. The Pirates got 67 wins out of Butcher during his time in Pittsburgh, while Suhr played just 70 games before he was released.

The other trade on this date was in 2000, when the Pirates dealt outfielder Wil Cordero to the Indians for infielder Enrique Wilson and outfielder Alex Ramirez. Wilson didn’t stay long, as he was dealt to the Yankees the following season for Damaso Marte. Ramirez struggled in his time in Pittsburgh and was sold to Japan that off-season. Between the majors, minors and Japan, he hit 505 career homers.

One game of note and it’s from the 2001 season, when the Pirates trailed 8-2 to the Astros in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and no one on base. They managed to score seven runs, capping it off with a walk-off grand slam from Brian Giles. The Pirates had five hits, a walk and a hit by pitch. Here is the boxscore from that game and a description can be found in the link above.