Neftali Feliz Rumors
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.
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.
Building a rotation through free agency can be expensive and frustrating, so teams are understandably open to alternatives. One way for teams to avoid free agent salaries and long-term commitments is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Yet few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, so it's not uncommon for converted relievers to flop as starters.
Here’s a mid-season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Daniel Bard - Bard walked more batters than he struck out and posted a career-high ERA as a starting pitcher before being optioned to the minor leagues in early June. The right-hander saw his fastball velocity (93.1 mph) and swinging strike rate (7.9%) dip as a starter. He's now pitching out of the bullpen at Triple-A, and the results have been mixed. This attempted transition has been a disappointment.
- Neftali Feliz - The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but Feliz's conversion didn't go nearly as well. He will miss the rest of the season and much of 2013 to undergo and recover from Tommy John surgery. Feliz's injury may be unrelated to his change in roles, but it doesn't make the reality of his elbow issues any more pleasant for the Rangers. The 24-year-old started just seven games before hitting the disabled list, and the results were acceptable, if not overwhelmingly positive: a 3.16 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9.
- Jeff Samardzija - Credit the Cubs for putting Samardzija in the rotation this spring. He's enjoying a breakout season with a 4.19 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 in 120 1/3 innings (he recovered from an ugly month of June to string together some strong starts in July). The 27-year-old has maintained his fastball velocity, averaging 95 mph with his heater. Among MLB starters only Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum generate a greater percentage of swings and misses (12.0%).
- Chris Sale - Sale has pitched to a 2.61 ERA through 124 innings with a 114K/31BB ratio and impressive hit and home run rates. The 2012 All-Star has lost some zip on his fastball (now 92.1 mph), but he continues to generate lots of swings and misses. A major success for rookie manager Robin Ventura, pitching coach Don Cooper and the White Sox.
Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for much of the 2011 season, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.
Items out of the AL and NL West..
- Despite their acquisition of Ryan Dempster, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (video link) still has doubts about the Rangers' starting rotation. With Roy Oswalt being less-than-stellar for Texas, the club needs to have Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, and Yu Darvish to be exceptional in the second-half.
- Further hurting the Rangers rotation is the news that pitcher Neftali Feliz is out for the season after tearing his ulnar collateral ligament and will undergo Tommy John surgery on Wednesday, writes Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. General manager Jon Daniels admitted that the club knew about Feliz's injury for a few days but didn't want to say anything until after the deadline.
- Giants GM Brian Sabean said there is flexibility to re-sign both Melky Cabrera and Hunter Pence, tweets Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. The Giants acquired Pence from the Phillies for right fielder Nate Schierholtz and minor leaguers Seth Rosin and Tommy Joseph.
Clayton Kershaw's salary jumped from $500K to $7.5MM this year, and it wasn't just because of his Cy Young performance. Kershaw qualified for arbitration for the first time in his career over the winter, so he obtained the right to establish his salary by comparing his production to that of his peers.
Though $7MM raises are reserved for elite performers like Kershaw, many first-time eligible starting pitchers will see their salaries rise from $500K or so to $2-4.5MM this coming offseason. A player’s case depends in large part on his career numbers, but his most recent season, or platform year, matters a great deal.
Advanced statistics like xFIP, wins above replacement and swinging strike rate don't generally figure in to arbitration cases. Instead, traditional stats such as innings, starts, wins and ERA determine players' salaries.
With one third of the season now complete, let’s check in on the prominent starting pitchers on track to be first-time arbitration eligible this coming offseason:
Injuries have limited Jhoulys Chacin, Doug Fister, Marco Estrada, Chris Narveson and Neftali Feliz. All of these pitchers are on the disabled list, none of them are on pace to complete 150 innings, and three of them -- Estrada, Fister and Chacin -- remain winless.
Phil Humber and Tommy Hunter have stayed healthy, but they’re off to disappointing starts that include losing records and ERAs above 5.50. The homer-prone Hunter is pitching at Triple-A, and could soon be recalled. The collective bargaining recognizes special accomplishments, and Humber's perfect game definitely qualifies, so his representatives at Moye Sports Associates could play it up should the sides go to a hearing. Yet there's no clear conversion rate in place to help value Humber's perfecto.
Brian Matusz and Ross Detwiler both spent considerable time in the minor leagues last year, but they've responded with solid seasons to date. Both will head to arbitration with losing records, however, and Matusz's career ERA sits at 5.32.
Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy, Tommy Hanson, Mat Latos and, to a lesser extent, Mike Leake all entered the season with the bulk innings totals that often lead to generous salaries in arbitration. All five pitchers continue piling up innings, though Leake, Latos and Norris have ERAs above 4.50. The pitchers in this group figure to be compared against one another over and over this coming winter.
Former top prospects Jeff Samardzija and James McDonald (pictured) are enjoying breakout seasons. Both right-handers have career-best walk rates and are averaging one strikeout per inning. If they can keep this up -- or at least come reasonably close to doing so -- their paychecks will reflect the improvements in 2013 and beyond. Unfortunately for Samardzija, starters Rick Porcello and David Price didn't seem to be able to use their generous pre-arbitration salaries to boost their arbitration earnings this past offseason, so his current $2.64MM salary probably won't help much.
It's early enough for the fortunes of these pitchers to change dramatically. Feliz could return to the bullpen, Fister could replicate last year's second half success, or Samardzija could regress. But, ten-plus starts into the season, these pitchers' platform seasons have started taking shape.
Photo courtesy of US Presswire. Stats via Baseball-Reference.com. Note that Derek Holland and Jonathon Niese signed extensions covering what would have been their first arb years. Madison Bumgarner, Stephen Strasburg and Daniel Hudson are expected to fall just shy of super two eligibility, though that's not official.
One way for teams to avoid building their rotations through free agency is to move relief pitchers to the starting rotation. Few relievers have the repertoire and durability to succeed in the rotation, but teams are understandably tempted by certain promising bullpen arms. After all, starters have the potential to limit the opposition for 180-200 innings, while relievers might pitch 60-70 innings.
The Rangers have successfully converted C.J. Wilson and Alexi Ogando to starting roles under Ron Washington and Mike Maddux in recent years, but some conversions don't work out quite as well. For example, Phil Coke and Kyle McClellan started the 2011 season in the rotation, before returning to relief roles.
Here’s an early season update on four pitchers who jumped from the ‘pen to the rotation this year. None of the pitchers below had started more than three MLB games in a season before 2012 and all of them were big league relievers last year:
- Daniel Bard - Bard's walk rate has spiked, his strikeout rate is down and he's generating fewer ground balls. His average fastball sits in the 93-94 mph range, down from 97.3 mph out of the bullpen, but he continues to generate swings and misses. A dropoff is expected from relievers who move to the rotation, and Bard showed promise against the White Sox last week.
- Neftali Feliz - Feliz's 3.81 ERA is a little deceptive. He has 18 strikeouts against 14 walks, partly because he's generating fewer swings and misses. He has also been lucky on balls in play, as his .194 opponents' BABIP indicates.
- Jeff Samardzija - The strikeouts are up, the walks are down and the peripheral numbers suggest this may well be sustainable. Samardzija's fastball continues to average 94.7 mph and batters are swinging and missing more than ever. So far, Samardzija's conversion has been a major success, especially relative to pre-season expectations. To his credit he has faced the Cardinals -- the NL's top offense -- twice.
- Chris Sale - Sale's transition to the rotation is going smoothly. Though his fastball velocity has dipped to 92.4 mph and his strikeout rate is down, he's limiting walks and averaging more than six innings per start.
Note: Though Lance Lynn, Anthony Bass and Felix Doubront pitched in relief last year, they also started in the minors for an extended period of time, so I don’t consider them converted relievers. Advanced stats via FanGraphs.
The Rangers signed Joe Nathan to a two-year, $14.5MM deal and announced that they’re moving Neftali Feliz to the rotation last night. Here’s the latest from the AL West, starting with some notes from Texas...
- The Rangers, who haven’t ruled out pursuing starters even after moving Feliz to the rotation, have shown interest in Matt Garza in the past, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explains (Twitter links). The Cubs are willing to move Garza, so the Rangers may inquire on the right-hander.
- Some in the Rangers organization were concerned about Feliz’s ability to recover from his blown save in Game 6 of the World Series, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney.
- Though Nathan's deal may seem generous, two agents had pegged the 37-year-old for a two-year deal in the $14-15MM range, according to Rosenthal.
- A’s GM Billy Beane accompanied owner Lew Wolff to meet commissioner Bud Selig and discuss the team’s stadium situation earlier in the month, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
- The A's lost money for the first time this century, Beane told Slusser. Though they obtain tens of millions in revenue sharing each season, the A's are expected to lose several million dollars in 2011.
The Rangers are looking to bolster their pitching this offseason, assistant GM Thad Levine said today in Milwaukee. Here are more details from MLBTR’s conversation with Levine, who represented the Rangers in place of GM Jon Daniels:
- Though the Rangers aren’t married to the idea of acquiring left-handed relievers, they’d like to add bullpen depth in some form. Southpaws Darren Oliver and Mike Gonzalez are on the free agent market and the Rangers would welcome either one back under the right circumstances.
- Ideally, they’ll add relievers who can retire hitters on both sides of the plate, rather than highly specialized players.
- The Rangers developed Neftali Feliz as a starting pitcher and they’re “very open" to moving him to the rotation, Levine said. The Rangers are confident in their ability to shift certain relievers to the rotation after converting C.J. Wilson in 2010 and Alexi Ogando in 2011.
- “In the event that the starting pitching market doesn’t play out like we hope, [converting Feliz to the rotation] is certainly an alternative and if we go that route, we’d probably want to try to address the bullpen,” Levine said. The Rangers intend to convert Feliz to the rotation, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter).
- Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols lurk as alternatives for large-market teams without fully established first basemen, but the Rangers aren’t at all concerned with Mitch Moreland, according to Levine. “We consider the setback much more injury-related than performance-related,” Levine said, noting that Moreland played through wrist tendinitis in 2011.
The Rangers are looking at available left-handed starting pitchers to replace the possibly-departing C.J. Wilson, reports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. It isn't a foregone conclusion that Wilson will sign elsewhere this winter, but the Rangers are preparing themselves just in case.
White Sox left-hander John Danks is "high on their list," confirming a report yesterday from Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman. Danks was originally drafted ninth overall by Texas in the 2003 draft before being traded to Chicago in 2006 as part of the Brandon McCarthy deal.
If the Rangers chose to replace Wilson with another free agent, the club has been connected to Mark Buehrle (the next best available free agent southpaw), as well as right-handers Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt. Texas could also look internally, as Rosenthal/Morosi report that the Rangers "are leaning toward" moving closer Neftali Feliz into the starting rotation.
As for Wilson, his agent Bob Garber told Rosenthal/Morosi that potentially switching from the AL to the NL wouldn't be the major factor in determining where Wilson signs, though Garber said his client would "love to play in the National League" since Wilson enjoys hitting.
With tonight's victory, the Rangers became the first AL West team to win consecutive pennants since the A's won three straight American League titles between 1988 and 1990. Here are a few news items from around the division....
- Despite recent rumors, the Rangers say there's "no way" they'll throw money at CC Sabathia this offseason, reports Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com (Twitter links). If Texas does decide to go after a starter from outside the organization, it would probably be Yu Darvish.
- "[C.J. Wilson] wants $100MM, and he's not getting that from us," a Rangers source tells Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com. The source says that if Wilson leaves Texas for free agency, Alexi Ogando and Neftali Feliz would both be converted into starting pitchers next season.
- The Angels may be close to a new television contract with FOX Sports, reports Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. A filing from Major League Baseball (in the ongoing legal case with Frank McCourt) stated that the Halos are "expected to close a new transaction" in regards to a new TV deal. Shaikin hears from sources that "no deal is imminent" but FOX and the Angels have been in negotiations. Shaikin speculates that the contract could exceed the Rangers' recent 20-year, $1.6BB TV contract with FOX.
- The Athletics were denied permission to interview Reds pitching coach Bryan Price, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (Twitter link). Price's contract in Cincinnati expires after next season.
- Athletics scouts were against the December 2005 trade of then-prospect Andre Ethier to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley, tweets Tom Krasovic of West Coast Bias.