Neftali Feliz Rumors

Tigers Sign Neftali Feliz

The Tigers have officially announced that they’ve signed Feliz, according to MLive.com’s Chris Iott. Feliz will join the team later today. The Tigers have optioned righty Jeff Ferrell to the minors, Iott tweets. MLB legend Pedro Martinez reported on MLB Network last night that the Tigers would sign Feliz. Feliz is a client of California Sports Management.

The 27-year-old Feliz posted a 4.58 ERA, 7.3 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9 in 19 2/3 innings with the Rangers before they designated him for assignment last week. Feliz then cleared waivers and opted to become a free agent.

It’s no surprise that Feliz signed quickly. He’s still young and has a track record as a closer, having saved 93 games in his career. He also still throws in the mid-90s (although his velocity is lower now than it was several years ago) and was very effective as recently as last season. It’s been awhile since he’s had strong peripherals, however — he struck out 11.3 batters per nine innings as a rookie in 2009, but his strikeout rate has declined significantly since then, and his walk rate has crept up a bit as well as he’s struggled with injuries over the years. If Feliz does return to his early-career form down the stretch, however, the Tigers will be able to take him through the arbitration process and control him for the 2016 season.

Joakim Soria is having a good season as the Tigers’ closer, and Feliz seems unlikely to supplant him in that role. The Tigers’ bullpen ERA of 4.04 ranks sixth worst in the Majors, though, so it seems reasonable that Detroit would want to take a chance on Feliz. The Tigers recently remade their bullpen by dropping Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny, giving them plenty of innings for Feliz to cover. This is, however, not the first time the Tigers have depended on a big name from outside the organization. They have a significant recent track record of acquiring closers like Feliz, Joe NathanJim Johnson, Octavio Dotel and Soria to plug a perpetually leaky bullpen, but the quality of those acquisitions has been uneven.


AL Notes: Refsnyder, Feliz, Hahn, Kelly

The Yankees are promoting middle infield prospect Rob Refsnyder today, a move originally reported by the YES Network’s Jack Curry (on Twitter). The 24-year-old Refsnyder hasn’t wound up on many top prospect lists, but he’s been a strong hitter throughout his minor league career and was hitting .290/.387/.413 for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, so there’s hope he might provide the Yankees with a bit of extra offense. Chad Jennings of the Journal News looks at the implications of the move, wondering what it means for incumbent second baseman Stephen Drew, who has 12 homers but is batting .182/.257/.372 this season. In the short term, Drew could move to a utility infielder role, but in the longer term, there might not be a role for him. Jennings also wonders whether the Yankees might look for a second base upgrade like Ben Zobrist on the trade market if Refsnyder doesn’t hit immediately. Here’s more from the American League.

  • The Twins have also shown interest in free agent Neftali Feliz, according to La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Neal notes that several other clubs have interest as well. That’s not surprising, since it’s rare that a young big-league reliever with Feliz’s pedigree is available as a free agent at this point in the season. Feliz opted for free agency after the Rangers outrighted him last week, and beyond Glen Perkins, Blaine Boyer, Brian Duensing and J.R. Graham, the Twins’ bullpen has struggled lately. An unconfirmed report last night had Feliz agreeing to terms with another club, however. We’ll likely know more about his status as the day unfolds.
  • The Athletics have placed starter Jesse Hahn on the 15-day DL with a forearm strain, as Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle notes. Chris Bassitt will start for the A’s today. A forearm strain sounds ominous, but A’s manager Bob Melvin sounds hopeful that the injury isn’t serious. “This time of the season, typically starters who have logged a lot of innings have some aches and pains and that’s where he is right now,” Melvin says. “It wasn’t getting better in the fashion where we were comfortable having him make another start, so we tried to be proactive here in giving him some time off.” Hahn, who the A’s acquired in an offseason trade with the Padres, has a 3.35 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a strong 52.6% ground ball rate in his first season with Oakland.
  • The Red Sox‘ weak rotation has strained their bullpen, and the Red Sox have leaned hard on pitchers like Alexi Ogando and Junichi Tazawa. But the Red Sox do not want to move the hard-throwing Joe Kelly, who’s currently starting with Triple-A Pawtucket, into a bullpen role, Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald writes. “As long as we think he can start, we want to give him every opportunity to do that,” says GM Ben Cherington. The 27-year-old Kelly has posted a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings with Pawtucket, striking out 11 batters and walking five. His last start ended prematurely after he got hit in the hand with a line drive, although the Red Sox hope he can make his next start on schedule, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes.

Neftali Feliz Elects Free Agency

9:48pm: Feliz has elected free agency, Cotillo tweets. There will obviously be interest in his services, particularly as he has maintained his mid-90s velocity, though it remains to be seen whether Feliz will receive any immediate opportunities at the major league level.

1:39pm: Rangers righty Neftali Feliz has cleared outright waivers, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Feliz was designated for assignment last Friday.

The 27-year-old Feliz is playing on a $4.13MM arbitration deal this year and remains controllable for a final year in 2016. That obligation, combined with the sub-par performances that led to the DFA, likely ensured that he would not be claimed.

Because Feliz has topped five years of service at this point, after entering the year with 4.151 to his credit, he can choose to elect free agency without giving up his remaining salary. Per the report, Feliz is still deciding whether or not to take an assignment with Texas.

One one of the game’s more exciting young pen arms, Feliz has scuffled this season to a 5.09 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 4.6 BB/9. Though he’s had much better results in recent seasons, it has been some time since Feliz rated well in the eyes of ERA estimators. He has not dipped below the 4.00 mark by measure of SIERA since the 2011 season, after which the Rangers unsuccessfully sought to move him into the rotation.

[RELATED: Rangers To Sign Cuban Free Agent Andy Ibanez]



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: Shields, Rangers, Saunders

James Shields rejected a four-year, $80MM offer from the Giants before signing with the Padres for $5MM less, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes. The Giants rescinded the offer once they re-signed Jake Peavy, however, so by the time Shields actually signed, the Cubs and Marlins were probably the Padres’ top rivals for Shields. Shields’ agent, Page Odle, says his client received more than one offer with a higher average annual value than the one he ultimately accepted from the Padres, confirming that Shields’ desires to play near his home outside San Diego and to for a revamped Padres team were quite strong. Odle implies, though, that another factor might have been that the Giants’ offer simply came too early in the offseason, and that he and Shields wanted more time to make a decision. Odle also says he and Shields did not reject a $110MM offer, as had been reported last month. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • The Rangers have three pitchers in Yu Darvish, Yovani Gallardo and Neftali Feliz who look like they could be extension candidates, but the team has no plans to extend any of them during Spring Training, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan writes. “There is nothing in the works right now,” says GM Jon Daniels. Darvish is signed through 2017, but can become a free agent a year earlier if he wins a Cy Young award in one of the next two seasons or finishes between second and fourth in both of them. “Counterintuitively, I’m rooting for him to be able to void that last year,” says Daniels, suggesting that the year lost will be positive if Darvish performs well enough to finish at or near the top in Cy Young balloting in one or both of the next two seasons.
  • Manager Lloyd McClendon says the Mariners will use newly signed lefty Joe Saunders purely as a reliever, MLB.com’s Greg Johns tweets. The 33-year-old Saunders has pitched almost his entire career as a starter, but he made six relief appearances for the Orioles last season.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Thursday

As we approach tomorrow’s deadline for exchanging filing numbers, the volume of arb deals will increase. All arb agreements can be monitored using MLBTR’s 2015 Arbitration Tracker, but here are today’s smaller agreements, with all projections referring to those of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz:

  • The Indians have avoided arbitration with third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM deal, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (Twitter link).  It’s a slight bump over Chisenhall’s projected $2.2MM salary.  Chisenhall hit .280/.343/.427 with 13 homers in 533 PA with the Tribe last season.
  • The Indians and left-hander Marc Rzepczynski have agreed to a one-year, $2.4MM contract to avoid arbitration, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter link).  Rzepczynski surpassed his projected salary with the contract, as he was pegged to earn $1.9MM next season.  The southpaw posted a 2.74 ERA, 2.42 K/BB rate and an even 46 strikeouts over 46 innings out of Cleveland’s bullpen last season.
  • The Nationals and catcher Jose Lobaton will avoid arbitration after agreeing to a deal, CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman reports.  Lobaton will earn $1.2MM, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets, which exactly matches his projected 2015 salary.  Lobaton hit .234/.287/.304 over 230 PA in backup duty for the Nats last season.
  • The Athletics and outfielder Craig Gentry agreed to a one-year, $1.6MM deal to avoid arbitration, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Gentry was projected to earn $1.5MM.  After posting a .759 OPS over 556 PA in 2012-13, Gentry took a step back at the plate last season, slashing just .254/.319/.289 over 258 plate appearances but still providing tremendous defense (a +16 UZR/150).
  • The Nationals have avoided arbitration with second baseman Danny Espinosa, agreeing to a one-year, $1.8MM contract, James Wagner of the Washington Post reports.  This deal falls below Espinosa’s projected $2.3MM contract, though Espinosa hit .219/.283/.351 in 364 plate appearances for the Nats last season and managed only a .465 OPS in 167 PA in 2013.
  • The Indians agreed to a one-year, $2.337MM deal with right-hander Carlos Carrasco, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter).  This figure is a significant increase over the $1.4MM contract that was projected for Carrasco in his first arb-eligible year.  The righty enjoyed a breakout 2014 season, posting a 2.55 ERA, 9.4 K/9 and 4.83 K/BB rate over 134 innings with the Tribe.  Carrasco pitched mostly out of the bullpen but also delivered several quality starts down the stretch.
  • The Dodgers and outfielder Chris Heisey agreed to a one-year deal worth $2.16MM to avoid arbitration, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  This is slightly less than the $2.2MM Heisey was projected to earn.  Heisey is coming off a .222/.265/.378 slash line over 299 PA with the Reds last season and was dealt to L.A. last month.
  • The Angels inked catcher Drew Butera to a one-year, $987.5K deal to avoid arbitration, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports.  Butera was projected to earn $900K next season.  The catcher posted a .555 OPS in 192 PA with the Dodgers last season and was dealt to the Halos last month.
  • The Nationals agreed to a one-year, $2.25MM contract with Craig Stammen, avoiding arbitration with the right-hander, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports (via Twitter).  This figure slightly tops Stammen’s projected $2.1MM contract.  Stammen posted a 3.84 ERA, 6.9 K/9 and a 4.00 K/BB rate over 72 2/3 innings out of Washington’s bullpen last season.
  • The Cardinals agreed to a one-year, $1.65MM deal with outfielder Peter Bourjos to avoid arbitration, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.  Bourjos was projected to earn $1.6MM.  Bourjos displayed his usual top-shelf defense with the Cards last season but only hit .231/.294/.348 over 294 PA.

(more…)


Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

We'll keep track of today's smaller deals to avoid arbitration in this post. Click here for background on the upcoming arbitration schedule and how MLBTR is covering it. You can also check in on our Arbitration Tracker and look at MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz's arbitration projections.

Today's noon CT deadline to exchange arb figures has passed, but negotiations to avoid an arbitration hearing can continue into February. The Braves are the only strict "file and trial" team that did not agree to terms with all of its arb-eligible players, meaning they could be headed for several hearings. The Nats and Indians have also shown a willingness to go to a trial and still have some players unsigned. On to today's contract agreements…

  • After exchanging numbers, the Mets and pitcher Dillon Gee have agreed to settle at the midpoint of $3.625MM, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Swartz projected Gee to earn $3.4MM.
  • The Cubs have avoided arbitration with reliever Pedro Strop, president Theo Epstein told Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). He will earn $1.325MM next year, according to a tweet from Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. It is not immediately apparent whether the deal was reached before the sides exchanged terms.
  • The Angels have reached agreement on a $3.8MM deal with reliever Ernesto Frieri, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (on Twitter). 
  • Mike Minor has agreed to terms on a $3.85MM deal with the Braves to avoid arbitration, reports Mark Bowman of MLB.com (Twitter links). The deal came before figures were exchanged, Bowman notes.
  • Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the D-Backs and lefty Joe Thatcher have avoided arb with a one-year, $2.375MM deal (Twitter link).
  • Nicholson-Smith tweets that the Angels and Fernando Salas reached an agreement to avoid arbitration. Salas is the first Halos player to avoid arb. Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Salas will earn $870K, which beats out his $700K projection.
  • MLB.com's Jason Beck reports (via Twitter) that the Tigers and righty Al Alburquerque have reached agreement on a deal to avoid arb. The hard-throwing righty will earn $837.5K in 2014, tweets Beck.
  • Sherman tweets that the Yankees and Ivan Nova avoided arbitration with a one-year, $3.3MM deal.
  • The Pirates and Vin Mazzaro inked a one-year, $950K deal in lieu of an arbitration hearing, tweets Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune.
  • The Royals announced that they've avoided arbitration with infielder Emilio Bonifacio. Heyman tweets that Bonifacio will earn $3.5MM in 2014.
  • Sherman reports that the Rays avoided arbitration with Jeremy Hellickson and Sean Rodriguez (Twitter link). Hellickson landed a $3.625MM payday with a $25K bonus if he hits 195 innings pitched. Rodriguez will get $1.475MM with a $25K bump for hitting 300 plate appearances.
  • Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com tweets that Brian Matusz avoided arb with the Orioles. Sherman adds that he'll earn $2.4MM in 2014.
  • MLB.com's Brian McTaggart tweets that Jason Castro and the Astros have avoided arbitration. McTaggart adds in a second tweet that Jesus Guzman avoided arb as well. Heyman reports that Castro will be paid $2.45MM, while Sherman tweets that Guzman will make $1.3MM.
  • The Indians tweeted that they've avoided arb with lefty Marc Rzepczynski, and MLB.com's Jordan Bastian tweets that he'll earn $1.375MM in 2014. Bastian adds that Scrabble will earn an additional $25K for appearing in 55 games and another $25K for 60 games.
  • The Giants avoided arbitration with Yusmeiro Petit, according to MLBTR's Steve Adams (on Twitter).  He'll earn $845K, according to Sportsnet's Ben Nicholson-Smith (via Twitter).

(more…)


AL West Notes: Cruz, Feliz, Blanton, Astros

Nelson Cruz's market seems almost non-existent in the eyes of Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan, who goes through every team in baseball to try and find a home for the outfielder.  Twenty-nine teams are "stretches" or "not a fit," while only the Orioles are a "decent" candidate, and Kendrys Morales might be a better fit for them.  A return to the Rangers would be a "stretch," and GM Jon Daniels recently said that he expects Cruz to sign elsewhere now that Shin-Soo Choo is in the fold.  MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth also took a crack at examining Cruz's market a few days ago — a reader poll pegged the Mariners as the best contender to sign Cruz, though they garnered just over 23% of the vote. 

Here's the latest from around the AL West…

  • Neftali Feliz wants to be a reliever for the rest of his career and he's intent on regaining his old job as the Rangers' closer, the righty tells MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan via a translator.  Feliz said he is "finally" recovered from Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for most of 2012 and 2013, cutting short his stint in the Texas rotation at the start of the 2012 season.  Feliz has pitched well out of the bullpen in the Dominican Winter League and he'll compete with Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers for the closer's job in 2014.
  • The Angels will bring Joe Blanton to Spring Training and if they can't find a trade for the veteran hurler, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines (via Twitter), Blanton will simply be released.  Blanton posted a career-worst 6.04 ERA in 2013, though the advanced metrics (3.84 xFIP, 3.92 SIERA) indicate that ERA was inflated thanks to an ungainly 19.1% home run rate and a .346 BABIP.  The Halos would eat $8.5MM if they released Blanton — his $7.5MM salary for 2014 and the $1MM buyout of his $8MM 2015 option.
  • Gonzalez also tweets that he expects the Angels to sign another free agent pitcher to their rotation.
  • Since the Astros have been in full-on rebuilding mode for virtually all of GM Jeff Luhnow's tenure, some player agents told Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle this offseason that they were simply weren't that familiar with Luhnow.  “All of our current players have representatives, and I’ve dealt with a lot of the agents and agencies through the draft over the years…But yeah, it’s a different position that we’re in this year relative to last year. Remember, in 2011, I was hired in December, and at that point things were fairly far along and there was not a lot of flexibility of doing much except for trades we did," Luhnow said.  "To a certain extent, having the position flexibility and financial flexibility to participate in the free-agent market has been a new experience for me as a general manager, and a good one.” 
  • With all the big moves in the AL West this offseason, Drellich opines that some of the would-be contenders in the division could have already peaked in a couple of seasons' time, when the Astros will be ready to step up and contend themselves.
  • In AL West news from earlier today, Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson found a new agent and we got some updates on Mark Mulder's contract with the Angels.

Rangers Avoid Arbitration With Neftali Feliz

The Rangers announced that they have avoided arbitration with Neftali Feliz on a one-year deal.  The pact is worth $2.9MM, a source told Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest (on Twitter).  He can earn an additional $50K based on appearances, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned.  Feliz is a client of California Sports Management.

The 24-year-old was brought into the rotation in 2012 but wound up missing most of the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  In the fall, GM Jon Daniels told reporters that he would likely bring Feliz back in 2013 as a reliever.

MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows that Texas' lone remaining open case is with outfielder David Murphy.


Quick Hits: Feliz, General Managers, Mariners

The Mariners announced (on Twitter) that long-time vice president of international operations Bob Engle informed the team that he will not sign a new contract when his deal is up on October 31st. Players like Felix Hernandez, Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Pineda, and Asdrubal Cabrera were signed under Engle's watch. Here is the latest from around the league…

  • Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters (including Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports) that the team may bring Neftali Feliz back as a reliever next season (Twitter link). Feliz is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and Daniels indicated that they would get him back sooner by moving him back to the bullpen.
  • It appears as though all 30 general managers will retain their jobs this offseason, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). Managers and coaches won't be so lucky, however.
  • The Mariners fired scout Patrick Guerrero, reports Baseball America's Ben Badler. Guerrero, who was based in the Dominican Republic, was the club's Latin American coordinator and high-regarded.