Matt Harrison Rumors

Rangers Designate Neftali Feliz, Activate Matt Harrison

The Rangers have designated righty Neftali Feliz for assignment, Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest reports on Twitter. His roster spot will go to starter Matt Harrison, who will return to the big leagues after a long layoff for serious back surgery.

May 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Rangers relief pitcher Neftali Feliz (30) throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Globe Life Park in Arlington. The Royals won 7-6 in 10 innings. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Feliz, 27, was once an ace reliever for Texas and owns a 2.71 career ERA over 259 1/3 big league innings. He has struck out 8.4 and walked 3.5 batters per nine over that span, with a 35.4% groundball rate.

Those career marks include a particularly rough start to the current season. Feliz has allowed 5.09 earned runs per regulation game, with 7.6 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9. He still works in the 93 to 94 mph range with his fastball, down a few ticks from his early season peak but still in line with recent campaigns.

Truth be told, the results have not been supported by ERA estimators in recent seasons. Feliz has not posted a sub-4.00 SIERA since way back in 2011, and has not dipped below the 3.00 mark by that measure since his first two seasons. Much the same holds when one looks at his FIP and xFIP numbers.

Things seemingly took a turn for the worse when the team attempted to utilize him as a starter in 2012. Feliz had a rocky go of it, throwing 42 2/3 innings of 3.16 ERA ball while benefiting greatly from a high strand rate and miniscule .213 BABIP. ERA estimators all had him pegged as a replacement level rotation piece. Feliz ultimately succumbed to Tommy John surgery in May of 2012, and has never quite recovered his arm speed.

While all the signs were there, it nevertheless remains stunning to see the move. Feliz was one of the game’s more promising arms in his heyday. He is owed $4.13MM this year, and comes with one more season of arbitration eligibility. Given his salary and recent performance, it would not be surprising to see him pass through waivers, but with over five years of service (he entered the season with 4.151 on his tab), he’d be eligible to elect free agency and keep the money.

The other major news here, of course, is the return of Harrison. It once seemed unclear whether he’d ever throw again, yet alone return to the majors. The 29-year-old was a steady contributor over 2011-12, racing up 399 frames with a 3.34 ERA and leading the team to lock him up to a five-year, $55MM pact. He is still under control through 2018, with the last year coming through a $13.25MM club option ($2MM buyout), and at this point Texas will be glad to receive any contribution from the southpaw.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


West Notes: Martin, Harrison, Bradley, Giants

Here’s the latest from the game’s western divisions:

  • Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin may be fighting for his roster spot over the next week, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. The speedy outfielder is sporting a .270 OBP on the year, and with Delino DeShields and Josh Hamilton set to return before long, the club may soon have viable replacements in center. Martin can still be optioned, so Texas can give him some time in the minors to work things out if it wishes.
  • The Rangers also have new options in the rotation with Matt Harrison seemingly nearing readiness for a big league start, Grant further writes. A six-man rotation is possible, says manager Jeff Banister, as is the potential of resting one of the current rotation members with a DL stint. Regardless of the team’s course of action, it’s remarkable that we’re at this point, as it once seemed that Harrison might never pitch again.
  • Diamondbacks hurler Archie Bradley is headed for a visit with Dr. James Andrews for a second opinion on his balky right shoulder, Nick Piecoro reports (Twitter links). The club’s physician found only tendinitis, but Bradley continued to feel discomfort in his latest rehab outing. It’s far too soon to speculate, of course, but at a minimum it seems it’ll be a while longer until Arizona gets Bradley back into its rotation.
  • The Giants are working hard on the July 2 market, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs tweets. San Francisco is “trying hard” to land Bahamian shortstop Lucius Fox and may be the single team most closely pursuing Eddy Julio Martinez, says McDaniel. But the sense in the industry is still that the Dodgers will get both players, he adds.

AL Notes: Royals, Holland, Harrison, Urshela

While much of the focus around the game remains on the ongoing draft, let’s take a peek in at the latest from the American League:

  • The Royals will soon have to make a call between catchers Drew Butera and Erik Kratz, Jeffrey Flanagan writes for MLB.com. Neither of the reserve backstops can be optioned, and Kratz is nearing the end of a rehab assignment. “If I were to handicap both of them, I would say Butera is the better defensive player and Kratz is the better offensive player,” said skipper Ned Yost, who explained that he had yet to speak with GM Dayton Moore about the decision.
  • The Rangers rotation has held together well enough, and has received a nice boost from Chi Chi Gonzalez, but nevertheless remains an area to watch as the team continues to play solid baseball. Texas may well look to add in the rotation, particularly since the club now seems unlikely to welcome back lefty Derek Holland until right around the trade deadline. Holland has not progressed as well as hoped from his sub-scapular strain, GM Jon Daniels told reporters including Stefan Stevenson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Twitter link). It now looks like he’ll be out until at least late July or even into August, per Daniels.
  • In more positive news, fellow Rangers southpaw Matt Harrison has managed to return to the hill and is throwing in the low-90s, as Kevin Sherrington writes for the Dallas Morning News. The results haven’t been there for Harrison in his work thus far at Triple-A — he’s allowed eight earned in ten innings — but that is secondary to his overall health at this point given the serious back issues he has dealt with. Harrison still has work to do, clearly, but he could bolster the Texas rotation by early July. He’s owed $13MM annually this year and the next two, while the team holds a $13.25MM option ($2MM buyout) for 2018.
  • As expected, the Indians have officially called up third baseman Giovanny Urshela, a 23-year-old who’ll see his first big league action. Urshela, who entered the year as the system’s 11th-best prospect in the eyes of Baseball America, has slashed .275/.301/.475 in his 83 Triple-A plate appearances this year. He’s said to be more advanced defensively than at the plate, but has significant raw power and solid contact ability (though he does not take many free passes).


Rosenthal’s Latest: Puig, Royals, Rangers, Gray

Dodgers president Andrew Friedman will entertain offers for any player, even Yasiel Puig, reports Ken Rosenthal in his latest video for FOX Sports. The right-handed outfielder is under club control through 2019. He’s paid just $4.5MM this season and $5.5MM in 2016. Puig, 24, provides necessary balance to a lineup that will include left-handers Adrian Gonzalez, Joc Pederson, and Corey Seager. The Dodgers would like to add a top young starter, but it would take an awful lot for Puig to be included in a deal. My own personal spit balling – it would take a starter like Matt Harvey to open a conversation. Here’s more from Rosenthal:

  • The Royals rotation ranks 13th in the American League in ERA. Rival executives expect the club to acquire starting pitching at the deadline. Kansas City may have a narrow window for contention. Alex Gordon can opt out of his contract after this season. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are under club control through 2017. The club does have Danny Duffy and Kris Medlen on the rehab trail, but setbacks are always possible. Personally, I wouldn’t expect them to seek a top pitcher like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto. However, I could see them targeting a guy like Aaron Harang.
  • The Rangers could soon find themselves with a surplus of starting pitchers. The club promoted Chi Chi Gonzalez today. Meanwhile, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Martin Perez are expected to return at some point this season. As Rosenthal points out, setbacks to that trio would not be surprising. Rather than trading a starter, the club might revisit their previous efforts to acquire Hamels. Texas is just one game below .500 entering this evening.
  • The Athletics are unlikely to deal ace Sonny Gray. At the end of the season, he’ll have the same amount of service time as Josh Donaldson did last winter. However, the A’s still hope to build a contender – if not this season then next. Gray is key cog for Oakland.

Rangers Claim Alex Hassan From Athletics

The Rangers have claimed outfielder Alex Hassan off waivers from the division-rival Athletics, Texas EVP of communications John Blake tweets. To make room on the 40-man roster, left-hander Matt Harrison has been transferred to the 60-day disabled list.

The 27-year-old Hassan has grown accustomed to changing uniforms over the past year, to say the least. Originally with the Red Sox, he was designated for assignment in November and claimed by the A’s, only to be designated and claimed by the Orioles just days later. Hassan believed he was Baltimore-bound until late February, when the Orioles designated him to make room for Everth Cabrera, and the A’s re-claimed him on waivers. Hassan again found himself on waivers after losing his 40-man spot to the recently signed Cody Ross, and he’ll hope to stick with a Rangers organization that is thin on quality outfield options at the moment.

That Hassan is so often claimed isn’t necessarily a surprise when considering the production he’s provided at the upper levels of the Minor Leagues. The former 20th-round pick is a career .282/.387/.411 hitter in 1082 Triple-A plate appearances, and he’s never posted an OBP lower than .377 in a full Minor League season. Hassan has played both corner outfield spots and first base a fair amount, giving him some versatility to go along with that high-OBP approach and his history of strong batting averages. All told, Hassan has walked in nearly 14 percent of his Minor League plate appearances while striking out at a relatively low rate of 17.9 percent in the Minors.


West Notes: Romo, Harrison, Athletics, Padres

Giants reliever Sergio Romo left no doubts about how glad he is to be back with San Francisco, as Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com reports (Twitter links). “It was like, we can get this done in five minutes, for real,” Romo said of his free agent stance towards the Giants. “Call me up.” Though other clubs offered him a chance to return to a closing role, Romo says he “just didn’t want to go anywhere.”

Here’s more from the game’s western divisions:

  • Rangers lefty Matt Harrison feels increasingly confident in his ability to make it back to the big leagues, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. Now working his way up to a full-size mound, Harrison still faces a difficult road in his return from spinal fusion surgery. “I don’t think about [retirement] anymore,” Harrison said. “It would definitely be hard to do without giving it another shot. The more I learn and the more I understand the rehab, I feel good about the possibility of getting back to a five-day rehab.” Obviously, any future contribution from Harrison — who is owed owed $41MM between now and 2017 (including a buyout on an option for 2018) — would be welcome news for a Texas club that has been beset by a variety of pitching injuries in recent years.
  • New commissioner Rob Manfred says a new ballpark for the Athletics is a priority, as the Associated Press reports (via ESPN.com). While Major League Baseball will remain involved, Manfred said that he is not sure how much influence it can have on the process and said he prefers the team to work with Oakland on a solution.
  • Padres owner Ron Fowler vetoed a June 2013 proposal from the team’s baseball executives to make a bid to acquire Cliff Lee, Tom Krasovic of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Then just ten months into his chairmanship, and overseeing a front office led by then-GM Josh Byrnes, Fowler decided the move did not make sense given the team’s overall situation and Lee’s expense. San Diego had been hovering at .500 at the time, but quickly fell back and out of contention that year, and obviously the move could have had significant long-term repercussions as things turned out.

AL Notes: Shields, Samardzija, Moncada, Rangers

James Shields, the top free agent still available, has lost his leverage and is in the worst possible spot as most teams have exhausted their payroll space and are more willing to identify reasons to dismiss an available player, opines ESPN’s Buster Olney in an Insider piece (subscription required). The longer a premium free agent like Shields remains unsigned, Olney notes, the more his negotiating strategy and leverage position are picked apart. Along those lines, a National League GM tells Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, “It’s hard to project a team would go five years.

In today’s news and notes from the American League:

  • Agent Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette (audio link) he will listen to any overtures from the White Sox to extend Jeff Samardzija, but his client will most likely find out what his “ultimate value is in the open market, which is what free agency is all about.
  • The Tigers hosted a private workout for Yoan Moncada, reports Lynn Henning of the Detroit News. MLB.com’s Jason Beck adds the workout was held last week at the team’s facility in Lakeland. Both Henning and Beck believe this was simply due diligence on the Tigers’ part because of the signing bonus Moncada will command.
  • In today’s mailbag, a reader asks Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer why the Indians allowed J.D. Martinez to slip through their fingers and join their divisional rivals last year. The Tigers, he explained, needed depth in the outfield late in Spring Training. The Tribe, on the other hand, had more than enough with David Murphy, Ryan Raburn, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Michael Brantley. At the time, they didn’t know Raburn would struggle and both Swisher and Bourn would be hindered by injuries.
  • Matt Harrison told reporters, including Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, he expects the Rangers to place him on the 60-day disabled list to open the season. Harrison also acknowleged a minor setback in his rehab, but the issue had to do with his mechanics rather than his health.
  • Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar told reporters, including FOX Sports Southwest’s Anthony Andro, he is pleased with the results his throwing program has had on his right shoulder. Profar, who is slated to take some dry swings from the right side this week, said his goal is to play in all of Texas’ Spring Training games.
  • In a nod that today is Super Bowl Sunday, Rangers GM Jon Daniels confirmed Russell Wilson will participate in the club’s Spring Training camp, Andro tweets. To illustrate the quarterback’s love of baseball, Rodgers, who also represents Wilson, told MLB Network Radio (audio link), if Wilson could figure out a way to play both sports, he would.

AL Notes: Harrison, Headley, Lowrie, Floyd, Tigers

The Rangers and pitcher Matt Harrison seemingly received positive news yesterday, as the righty, as Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweets that an X-ray of Harrison’s back came back clean. He will undergo a CT scan on Wednesday in hopes of being cleared to throw in January.

More from the American League:


AL West Notes: Donaldson, A’s, Young, Harrison, M’s

While multiple reports yesterday raised the possibility of the Athletics trading Josh Donaldson this offseason, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link) spoke with an A’s official who completely dismissed the notion, bluntly stating, “That would be stupid.”  Of course, one such comment doesn’t completely rule out the possibility, but it does seem unlikely that the A’s are feeling too much pressure to move their All-Star third baseman, as he’s just hitting arbitration for the first time.

In other Oakland and AL West news…

  • Athletics GM Billy Beane doesn’t regret pulling the trigger on the trade that sent Yoenis Cespedes to Boston in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, he told reporters, including Joe Stiglich of CSNBayArea.com“Simply put, if we don’t have Jon Lester, I don’t think we make the playoffs,” Beane said. First baseman Brandon Moss also spoke, noting that he doesn’t think there was any way for the A’s to catch the Angels based on their torrid second-half run.
  • The A’s could potentially have a strong pitching staff fronted by Sonny GrayJeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir in 2015, writes John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, but they’re left with question marks surrounding that strength. The team has no middle infield to speak of, and the free agent market doesn’t offer much in the way of impact options. Meanwhile, a large portion of the roster — including Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin, Brandon Moss, Stephen Vogt, John Jaso, Derek Norris, Craig Gentry and Sean Doolittle — is marred by injury concerns. Building a team that can contend in 2015 is a long shot, in Hickey’s estimation.
  • Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News has some more details on Michael Young‘s upcoming role in the Rangers‘ front office. Young and the Rangers are finalizing a deal that will make him a special assistant to GM Jon Daniels — a role that the Rangers are also discussing with Darren Oliver. However, while many former players that land special assistant roles are loosely affiliated with the club and have a light workload, Grant reports that these roles would be far more significant. The Rangers feel they’ve lacked insight into the psychology of modern players when making recent decisions, and the presence of Young and Oliver could help to provide that insight. The roles will also involve field work and player evaluation at times.
  • Rangers lefty Matt Harrison has pushed back the beginning of his offseason throwing sessions from November to January, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com. Harrison called the move precautionary, noting somewhat ominously, “I got only one shot at this. I just have to make sure it’s right.” The talented southpaw, who is entering the third year of a five-year, $55MM extension, is attempting to work his way back from his third back surgery in a span of two years.
  • Perhaps the Mariners‘ biggest weakness was the lack of a productive DH this season, writes Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. That flaw, he opines, should be remedied with a hard pursuit of Victor Martinez. Though he’s 36, will cost a draft pick and is sure to be expensive, Stone points out that the time for exhibiting patience is waning, as Felix Hernandez and especially Robinson Cano move closer to the end of their primes. He also points out that Martinez “reveres” manager Lloyd McClendon, who was his hitting coach with the Tigers prior to becoming Seattle’s manager.

AL West Notes: Astros Draft, Appel, Harrison, Angels

While GM Jeff Luhnow and scouting director Mike Elias recognize how much three straight No. 1 overall picks have helped the Astros organization, the duo said in a press conference yesterday (video link) that they’re hopeful they won’t be in that spot again in 2015. Elias discussed the club’s approach to picking first overall: “We enter the year with a pool of players who we deem to be candidates for the pick. It’s usually about seven players long, the list. And we try to hang with those players as long as we can, reasonably, into the spring. We want to get as much info on these guys as possible so that we’re not blindsided if one of them storms up the list at the end, or if one of them might fall off the list for whatever reason.” Luhnow adds that while the first-round picks add huge value, “you really make your money on the draft in the later rounds.”

Here’s more out of the AL West …

  • While it is far too soon to judge last year’s draft results, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper explains why the Astros‘ Mark Appel‘s early-career struggles could actually be cause for concern about his true ceiling. Appel, a college hurler taken first overall last year by Houston, has been knocked around in the low minors — putting him in the company of high-end busts. College arms that have gone on to dominate at the big league level, says Cooper, have tended to overpower lower-level competition easily with their combination of stuff and polish. What is most troubling, Cooper says, is that those stats have coincided with scouting reports that paint Appel as more of a mid-rotation arm.
  • Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison underwent disc fusion surgery today, reports Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (via Twitter). That means, of course, that he will not attempt to rehab and pitch through his back issues. While Harrison sounds determined to have a go at a comeback, so long as it is a viable possibility, success seems far from given at this point.
  • Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes that while the Angels have delayed a tough decision by optioning Jarrett Grube to make room for the returning Josh Hamilton, something has to give soon. By this weekend, the team will need another pitcher, and either C.J. Cron or Grant Green — both of whom have hit very well — is likely to be optioned. Fletcher calls Raul Ibanez the elephant in the room, noting that the veteran DH’s numbers haven’t improved since he’s been platooned. Ibanez’s roster spot was said to be secure as recently as May 19, though he’s batted just .143/.226/.286 since that time and is hitting .147/.259/.272 overall.

Jeff Todd contributed to this post.