Rangers, Neftali Feliz, Agree On One-Year Deal

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Today in the non-news, which can only be classified as actual news when nothing else is going on, the Rangers and currently disabled RHP Neftali Feliz have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a one-year deal worth $2.9 million.

This is Feliz’s first of three anticipated arbitration seasons, and the $2.9 million deal he received is just a mere $200K below his expected $3.1 million cost, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Barring an extension, Neftali Feliz is under contract with the Rangers through the 2015 season.

Feliz, Texas’ former flame-throwing closer turned starting pitcher before the 2012 season, produced 4.0 fWAR out of the bullpen between 2009 and 2011, accumulating better than a strikeout per inning (9.07) and a walk rate of 3.1/9 IP. Though he only pitched an abbreviated 2009, totaling 31.0 innings, he ranked 19th in all of baseball in pitching fWAR in the three-year period between ’09-’11. He’s an elite specimen out of the ‘pen.

Acknowledging that, the thought before the 2012 season was to capitalize on his value by transitioning him from closer-to-starter, much like the Rangers successfully accomplished in 2010 with C.J. Wilson, and 2011 with Alexi Ogando. The early returns were somewhat promising; his ERA was 3.16, despite an xFIP of 4.98, a SIERA of 4.67, and a BB rate of 4.85/9 IP. This data comes in the ridiculously small sample of 7 starts, so it’s debatable just how much it actually means.

He began a rehab stint into June and July, but never regained his form. He clearly was not the same pitcher he had been in his first three years, which began the whispers questioning if Feliz was broken. Or, even worse, injured.

He underwent Tommy John surgery in the middle of the summer, and isn’t expected to be back until August of 2013, at the earliest. It’s highly questionable if he will even throw one pitch for the Rangers next year, and if he does, we wonder if it will (a) be out of the bullpen, or (b) be effective enough to justify a significant role come postseason time. Right now, I expect (a) would be true, and am highly suspect about (b).

To that end, it should be a given that he won’t be able to produce enough value out of the bullpen in 2013 to justify the $2.9 million price tag bestowed upon him, but more importantly, we just need to make sure he’s healthy, and ready to go, by 2014.

If the 90%+ success rate of Tommy John surgeries holds true, then he should be a favorite to earn the 5th rotation spot year after next, joining him with Yu Darvish, newly-extended Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando, as part of one of the more formidable rotations in all of baseball.

First things first, we want Neftali Feliz’s arm to be OK. Secondly, we want him to be able to pitch again. Thirdly, we want him to begin throwing on a rehab assignment next year. Fourthly, we want him to be called up to the Major League team, hopefully in the midst of a playoff chase.

And lastly, we want a dominating 7-inning start out of Darvish, an 8-0 lead heading into the 8th, and a loud, raucous roar from the Arlington faithful once Neftali Feliz regains his rightful position in the Rangers bullpen.

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