10:40am: At the press conference to introduce Eflin, general manager Peter Bendix said the Rays fully expect to find a trade partner for Feyereisen (Twitter link via Topkin).
9:58am: The Rays have designated right-hander J.P. Feyereisen for assignment in order to open a spot on then roster for right-hander Zach Eflin, whose previously reported three-year deal is now official.
While Feyereisen’s DFA might raise some eyebrows, given a sensational 2022 season in which he pitched 24 1/3 shutout innings for Tampa Bay with a 25-to-5 K/BB ratio, the decision comes less than a week after the right-hander required surgery to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his ailing right shoulder. Feyereisen won’t throw a ball for at least four months and is expected to be shelved well into the 2023 season. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that Feyereisen isn’t expected back until late August.
Prior to the 2022 season, Feyereisen had enjoyed success in the upper minors but displayed more red flags in the big leagues. A 2.73 ERA in 56 innings between the Brewers and the Rays in 2021 was clearly encouraging, but Feyereisen walked a whopping 14.1% of his opponents that season, making that output appear unsustainable. The Rays, however, managed to sharpen his command in 2022, as he fanned 29.1% of hitters against a tidy 5.8% walk rate. His career walk rate of 12% is still concerning, particularly when coupled with the recent shoulder operation, but Feyereisen clearly has the makings of a solid late-game reliever if he can sustain his improved 2022 command.
The Rays, of course, could have opted to keep Feyereisen on the 40-man roster and place him on the 60-day injured list when Spring Training commences — there’s no injured list in the offseason — but they’re in somewhat of a bind, given that Feyereisen is just one of several players ticketed for the 60-day IL when camp begins. Both Shane Baz and Andrew Kittredge figure to require placement on the 60-day IL themselves, as each is recovering from Tommy John surgery. Waiting until Spring Training to make those moves would’ve effectively left the Rays working with a 37-man roster throughout the offseason.
Even with Feyereisen’s recent surgery, there’s a strong chance today’s DFA will spell the end of his time with the Rays. He has only two-plus years of MLB service time, meaning an acquiring team could control the 29-year-old righty for another four seasons. Even if he’ll miss a considerable portion of the 2023 season, there’s plenty of appeal in adding an arm of Feyereisen’s caliber, whether via a small trade or waiver claim, knowing he can be reasonably expected to be healthy for the 2024-26 seasons. The Rays clearly didn’t feel they had the luxury of rostering three immediate 60-day IL placements for the remainder of the offseason, but other clubs with greater flexibility won’t have such pressing concerns.