- The Brewers had some interest in Sergio Romo prior to their signing of Neftali Feliz, Andrew Baggarly of the Bay Area News Group. Milwaukee was known to be looking for relief pitching and landed both Feliz on a big league deal and Joba Chamberlain on a minors contract this week. The Brewers also made an offer to Romo’s former Giants teammate Santiago Casilla before they signed Feliz. Romo was known to have received interest from at least two non-Giants teams this offseason, though there hasn’t been much buzz overall about the veteran right-hander’s market.
- Before signing with the Athletics, Santiago Casilla told reporters (including Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle) that he also received an offer from the Brewers. Earlier this week, Milwaukee went in another direction for its closing vacancy by signing Neftali Feliz to a one-year contract.
The Brewers have agreed to a deal with veteran righty Joba Chamberlain, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Though it’s not mentioned in the report, it seems likely that the contract is of the minor-league variety.
Chamberlain, 31, put up a 2.25 ERA in twenty frames for the Indians last year. Though he allowed only a dozen hits, however, he surely benefited from a .216 BABIP and posted a mediocre 18:11 K/BB ratio. After permitting three free passes in an outing in early July, he was designated and later released by Cleveland (after he refused an outright assignment).
While there were obviously some limitations in Chamberlain’s game, it was surprising that he did not end up joining another organization in 2016. He had managed to post a sturdy 11.6% swinging-strike rate, was not allowing much hard contact, and was averaging better than 93 mph with his fastball when he was cut loose.
Milwaukee now becomes the latest team to have a look at the one-time top prospect, who has spent time with four organizations over the last three years since leaving the Yankees. Chamberlain figures to join the battle in camp for a role in a Brewers’ pen that figures to have a few spots up for grabs this spring.
The Brewers bolstered their bullpen on Thursday, announcing the signing of right-hander Neftali Feliz to a one-year contract. Feliz, a client of BTI sports, is reportedly expected to close for Milwaukee and will be guaranteed $5.35MM. His contract reportedly contains incentives as well, which can boost the value of the deal to $6.85MM.
The 28-year-old Feliz was the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year with the Rangers and served as the closer in Texas for two seasons before shifting back to the rotation and ultimately requiring Tommy John surgery in 2013. He returned to Texas and logged a 1.99 ERA in 2014 but with considerably diminished peripherals. The Rangers cut him loose midway through the 2015 campaign after 19 2/3 innings of a 4.58 ERA, and he fared worse down the stretch with the Tigers that season (7.62 ERA in 28 1/3 innings).
Like so many others, though, Feliz found renewed success with the Pirates, for whom he tossed 53 1/3 innings of 3.52 ERA ball last season. His fastball velocity, which had been diminished since coming back from Tommy John, spiked back up to an average of 96.1 mph, and his strikeout and swinging-strike rates jumped accordingly. Feliz averaged 10.2 K/9 last season and posted a career-best 14.2 swinging-strike rate that ranked 24th among 135 qualified relievers. He also averaged a manageable 3.5 walks per nine innings pitched and posted a 37.9 percent ground-ball rate.
Had Feliz finished the season in better health, a multi-year deal may very well have been in the cards. However, his season unofficially came to an end on Sept. 3 with an arm injury that was never disclosed in full and remains nebulous to this day. That likely gave plenty of teams pause over the course of the winter, though the Brewers are comfortable enough with his medicals to bring him on board. The fact that Milwaukee has a seemingly wide-open ninth-inning picture following the trade of Tyler Thornburg to the Red Sox likely enhanced the appeal of the Brewers for Feliz, who can re-enter the open market next season and conceivably cash in on a substantial contract if he remains healthy in 2017.
If Feliz does ultimately end up closing games in Milwaukee, he’ll push right-handers Corey Knebel and Carlos Torres down the pecking order. Rob Scahill, Michael Blazek, Jhan Marinez, Jacob Barnes and Taylor Jungmann will be among the relievers competing for middle relief work in manager Craig Counsell’s bullpen, and left-hander Tommy Milone looks like a solid bet to break camp as the team’s long man (if he’s not able to claim a rotation spot in Spring Training).
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported the agreement and the terms (Twitter links). FanRag’s Jon Heyman said the two sides were nearing a deal over the weekend after BrewerFan.net’s Jim Goulart linked to the two sides.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- While the Brewers and right-hander Neftali Feliz have yet to finalize an agreement, the two sides are still talking and working toward that goal, tweets MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy. Reports over the weekend suggested that the two sides could be moving toward a deal, though there’s been little news since. Feliz had a strong 2016 season with the division-rival Pirates (3.52 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 in 53 2/3 innings) but finished the season on the shelf with a somewhat vague arm injury.
- Both the Blue Jays and Orioles were “in” on Michael Saunders before the outfielder agreed to a one-year, $9MM with the Phillies (which includes an $11MM club option and escalators), tweets ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick. Per Crasnick, Saunders also drew some level of interest from the Brewers and the Diamondbacks as well, Crasnick adds, which is somewhat interesting given the fact that neither club has a clear on-paper need for an additional regular in the outfield.
- Eric Thames will be the latest data point as teams try to project how star-level performance in the Korea Baseball Organization carries over to Major League Baseball, and Fangraphs’ David Laurila spoke to Brewers GM David Stearns about the factors that went into signing Thames. Stearns explained that improved plate discipline despite a vast increase in the number of breaking balls Thames saw in Korea played into the decision, as did a number of analytics processes and statistical projections. “As more players play in the KBO, or any other foreign league, and then come back to the States, projection systems are going to continue to improve,” said the Milwaukee GM. “Clearly, the translation of KBO stats to (MLB) stats isn’t as straightforward as translating a Triple-A environment to a Major League environment, but it still played a role in our evaluation.”
- There hasn’t been much interest in Ryan Braun this winter, which Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com attributes in part to some lingering hard feelings over how Braun’s representatives conducted themselves when he was trying to avoid a PED suspension in 2013. Perhaps a larger factor, of course, is the crowded outfield market. As one GM noted to Gammons, a team looking to add corner outfield power could prefer to sign the likes of Jose Bautista or Mark Trumbo rather than pay a hefty price in both prospects and contract by acquiring Braun from the Brewers.
TODAY: Hwang turned down an offer from the KBO’s Lotte Giants, Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency reports (hat tip to MyKBO.net’s Dan Kurtz). Yoon-won Lee, the Giants’ general manager, said his club extended “a sizeable offer” to Hwang, but the infielder seems intent on testing himself in North America, even if it means earning less money. To this end, Hwang is reportedly open to signing a split contract rather than a straight big league deal.
TUESDAY: The market continues to develop for Korean third baseman Jae-gyun Hwang, according to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press (links to Twitter). He’s most interested at this point in securing an opportunity that comes with a 40-man roster spot, per the report.
Hwang, a 29-year-old free agent, was said recently to have drawn some attention from the Giants. The Brewers and Tigers are also among the team’s with some level of interest, according to Berardino. While the Twins have “checked in” on him, it seems there’s no present fit.
It could be, of course, that Hwang may still need to wait for other moves to shake out before he’s presented with a clear shot at the majors. A return to Korea can’t be ruled out, of course; indeed, a KBO club has made a four-year offer. While that will surely hold appeal, it seems Hwang is still hoping for a chance to play at the game’s highest level.
For San Francisco, the possibility of adding another corner outfielder or third baseman may make the team hesitant to commit. The Brewers already plugged in Travis Shaw at the hot corner, though presumably the right-handed-hitting Hwang could provide a complement (with both perhaps also factoring in at first base). As for the A.L. Central rivals in Detroit and Minnesota, third base appears to be set in both cases. But perhaps there’s some window for Hwang if he’s deemed capable of spending some time at second and one of those teams deal their incumbent options. Alternatively, perhaps, he could factor in the corner outfield.
It has been a tough market for third basemen, with Luis Valbuena and Trevor Plouffe among the players still looking for a job. There’s also a variety of veteran utility types with experience on the left side of the infield — including Aaron Hill, Kelly Johnson, and Stephen Drew — who have yet to sign.
Beyond the enticement of the unknown, Hwang has some possible advantages over some of those options. He won’t turn 30 until July and is coming off of a career year in the KBO. Finally combining both power and contact in a single season, Hwang popped 27 long balls with just 64 strikeouts over 522 plate appearances. He also swiped 24 bags, though he was cut down on ten other attempts.
Free agent righty Neftali Feliz is close to agreeing to a deal with the Brewers, Fan Rag’s Jon Heyman writes (Twitter links). BrewerFan.net’s Jim Goulart was first to tweet a connection between Feliz and the Brew Crew.
The 28-year-old Feliz is coming off a strong comeback season in the Pirates’ bullpen in which he posted a 3.52 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 over 53 2/3 innings. (He missed the last month of the season due to arm discomfort, but his injury was not structural in nature, as Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tweets. Feliz also began the year throwing his fastball in the mid-90s and added velocity as the season went on, a promising sign for a pitcher who had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and spent several seasons thereafter trying to get back on track.
The Brewers could represent a good match for Feliz. He has 99 saves’ worth of career closing experience, and in the wake of a variety of Brewers trades of established relievers (including Jeremy Jeffress and Tyler Thornburg), he could receive the opportunity to close in Milwaukee. If he does, he could potentially receive a very lucrative contract the next time he’s a free agent. The rebuilding Brewers, meanwhile, would get the chance to dangle Feliz as a trade piece at the deadline, assuming they do fall out of the playoff race. The Brewers have reportedly been looking for relief pitching lately — GM David Stearns has said he’s exploring the possibility of adding relief help not only through big-league additions, but through minor-league signings and trades. The Dodgers had also been connected to Feliz of late.
Free-agent righty Greg Holland is arguably the highest-upside reliever left on the open market, and Jon Heyman of Fan Rag provides some notable updates on his situation. The 31-year-old is in a somewhat unusual spot as a free agent, in that he brings a sparkling track record but is also seeking to return from a long layoff due to Tommy John surgery.
Given his health situation and also the evident interest around the league, Holland seeks a two-year deal that would allow him to opt out after the first season, according to Heyman. That’s the same structure that Brian Wilson landed with the Dodgers before the 2014 season, though he had made it back to the hill late in the prior campaign.
In Holland’s case, there’s perhaps greater uncertainty, but also greater upside. He took a step back in his most recent action, in 2015, but that may well have been due to the elbow issues that led to his surgery. Over the prior four campaigns, Holland was one of the game’s very best relievers, as he compiled 256 1/3 innings of 1.86 ERA pitching with 12.6 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.
There’s interest in Holland’s proposed two-year arrangement, per the report. Among the teams still pursuing him are the Dodgers, Nationals, Rockies, Brewers, Reds, and Rays. While the Cubs showed prior interest, it’s not clear whether they are still in. And the Royals have also indicated a desire to bring back their former closer, though it seems that the team’s payroll situation may not allow for a competitive bid.
That group of organizations would presumably offer Holland a variety of possible roles. The Nationals, Rockies, Brewers, Reds, and Royals (if they’re involved) could all promise him first dibs on closing roles, while the Dodgers and perhaps the Cubs are more likely to view the veteran as a setup man. Tampa Bay, perhaps, might be most interested in the event that it strikes a deal for incumbent closer Alex Colome. Whether and to what extent the chance to take hold of the ninth is an important factor in Holland’s decisionmaking is not immediately clear.