A couple days ago, the now former Rangers’ hurler Scott Feldman inked a one-year, $6M deal with the Chicago Cubs, a figure that can be maximized up to $7M if he earns all his incentives. The fact that he left the organization, or, rather that the Rangers really didn’t want him back, is not at all surprising. However, I’d feel remiss not acknowledging the absence of a Ranger who really did nothing wrong in his time here, but whom the fan base really never appreciated to the extent he probably deserved.
Feldman, a little known sidearm/submarine tosser, was drafted way back in the 30th round by the Rangers in 2003. It took him only a little over two years before his rapid ascension through the Minor League circuit was complete, debuting for Texas on August 31st, 2005. In his brief stint with the team at the end of a dismal 2005 campaign, Feldman made 8 relief appearances spanning 9.1 innings, and allowed just one run.
The following two years, Feldman bounced around between AAA and the big leagues, juxtaposing a pretty solid 2006 on the bump (41.1 IP/3.92 ERA) with an undesirable 2007 (39.0 IP/5.77 ERA), leaving many to question if he had hit his plateau as a relief pitcher, and furthermore if he would ever match the fair production he managed to throw up in his age-23 season of ’06.
Then, the philosophy changed. The organization aimed to capitalize on his value by changing his arm slot and utilizing him out of the rotation. It was a necessary risk worth taking, both for the Rangers who possessed minimal starting pitching options, and for Feldman, whose career in relief already seemed to be dwindling.
In 2008 — Feldman’s first season in the rotation — he threw up a pedestrian 5.29 ERA in 25 starts over 151.1 innings of work. The experiment initially appeared to fail, but without any other obvious candidates to utilize out of the rotation, the Rangers tried him out again in 2009, and watched him flourish.
2009 was the high-water mark of Feldman’s career. In 31 starts, and nearly 200 innings accumulated, he put up a respectable 4.08 ERA, generating a win-loss record of 17-9, and a robust 3.5 fWAR — music to the ears of Rangers’ fans. Being that ’09 was his third full season in the Major Leagues, GM Jon Daniels rewarded Feldman by buying out his three arbitration years of 2010, ’11 and ’12, giving the right-hander a 3-year deal worth a little over $13M, with a 4th-year option worth $9.25M.
As it would turn out, Feldman never again matched his 2009 production with the Rangers. In fact, he never came close to it. In 2010, in what was to be Texas’s first World Series season in franchise history, Feldman pitched in 29 games (22 starts), posting a 5.48 ERA and 1.3 fWAR in roughly 140 innings. The following season, on another World Series-caliber roster, Feldman was largely injured, starting just two games over the course of the season. However, if it weren’t for Alexi Ogando, one could consider he was our biggest bullpen weapon during the postseason, posting a 3.29 ERA over 9 appearances covering 13.2 innings of work.
Again, when we’re talking about Scott Feldman, even though there’s often times a silver lining to look at, the dark clouds have always been more comfortable to latch onto. Because despite his excellent postseason work, fans will still remember the two-strike cutter Lance Berkman fisted for a looping, game-tying single in extra innings of Game 6 during the 2011 World Series loss to the Cardinals.
If we’re talking about iconic moments that symbolize a player, that would be Feldman’s. He was a good pitcher, not great, who always lacked a certain something, who you never particularly trusted with the ball in his hands, no matter what the situation. And in that brief instance in the bottom of the 10th inning, two outs, two strikes, men on second and third, he made a good pitch, and it still wasn’t enough.
The unfortunate, albeit nearly universal truth amongst the Rangers fan base, is that Scott Feldman himself is what was never enough.
In 2012, Feldman’s final season in Texas, his peripherals (3.87 xFIP, 2.3 fWAR) were far outweighed by poor overall results. After complaining about his role in relief, Feldman was thrust into the rotation fairly early on — after Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz went down with season-ending injuries — posting a 5.09 ERA in 123.2 innings. It wasn’t only that, though. Just as it’s been for nearly the entire duration of his career, there just seemed to be a sheer hopelessness surrounding him every time he touched the ball. The defense behind him looked lackadaisical and disinterested, and perhaps that played some minor role in why his predicted ERA (reflected by his xFIP and SIERA) were so much lower than his actual ERA was. Scott Feldman was the bad luck loser on one of the most promising, most talented, most underachieving teams the Rangers have ever fielded.
So it came as no real shock after the season that the Rangers brass decided to pass on his $9.25M option in favor of exercising his exceptionally cheap $600K buyout.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve never particularly cared for Scott Feldman. I’ve always perceived him as something of an outcast, and when we’re talking about projectable pitching moving forward, yeah, there’s just not a whole lot of confidence I can draw from Feldman. I’m happy he got a solid contract from a National League team that’s not expected to compete for another year. It looks like the perfect place for him to start anew, to maybe recapture some of that old 2009 magic, and make a few Rangers fans reconsider what exactly they’ve been missing from him all along.