JUNE 19: The Brewers announced that Feliz has been released. At this point, he’s free to sign anywhere for the pro-rated portion of the big league minimum for any time spent in the Majors.
JUNE 14: The Brewers announced that they’ve designated right-hander Neftali Feliz for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for righty Matt Garza, who has been reinstated from the disabled list.
Feliz, 29, signed a one-year deal with the Brewers this offseason and opened the 2017 campaign as the team’s closer. However, after getting off to a hot start to the year (one earned run on two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts through his first seven appearances), Feliz’s performance has plummeted. Over his past 22 appearances, he’s been torched for a 7.17 ERA — yielding 21 runs (17 earned) on 21 hits with a 14-to-13 K/BB ratio. Feliz has served up a staggering eight homers in just 27 innings this season and had lost the closer’s role to breakout reliever Corey Knebel well before being designated.
Back in 2010, Feliz starred with the Rangers as the AL Rookie of the Year, saving 40 games with a 2.73 ERA and a 71-to-18 K/BB ratio in 69 1/3 innings of work. Feliz experienced a dip in velocity for several years following Tommy John surgery, and while he’s reclaimed his 96 mph average fastball velocity over the past two seasons, his control has never returned to pre-TJ form. Moreover, this year’s 30.3 percent ground-ball rate is one of the worst marks of his career. Generally speaking, though, he’s eschewed hard contact — surrendering a 26.6 percent hard-hit rate that ranks 131st out of 177 qualified relievers. Unfortunately for Feliz, when opponents have squared up against him, the damage has been significant, as evidenced by the previously mentioned home run woes.
Feliz was an effective reliever as recently as last season with the Pirates, tossing 53 2/3 innings with a 3.52 ERA, 10.2 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9 out of manager Clint Hurdle’s bullpen. That campaign, however, came to an end with a vague arm injury that was never fully disclosed and may have hindered his stock as a free agent.
In the coming days, the Brewers will determine whether they’ll trade Feliz (which would require including some cash to offset his salary) or opt to place him on waivers. It’s extremely unlikely that another team would claim the remaining $3.22MM on Feliz’s $5.35MM salary, so if he’s exposed to waivers he’ll almost certainly clear and be released. At that point, any team could sign him for the pro-rated portion of the Major League minimum. That sum, in turn, would be subtracted from the $3.22MM that the Brewers will pay him through season’s end.