The Milwaukee Brewers decided to designate Neftali Feliz for assignment on Wednesday, ending his brief tenure with the club. The Blue Jays struck gold with a couple relievers in a similar situation last year, and should explore the possibility with the former Texas Ranger.
The bullpen is likely the most volatile portion of a MLB franchise, which is what makes spending money on the area a risky proposition. The Blue Jays have been very fortunate this season as they’ve received great production from Danny Barnes and Ryan Tepera on minimum contracts, and also have received plenty of value on veteran, Joe Smith‘s contract, at just 3 million.
For every case like Smith’s, there are several more that didn’t work out, and often they’ve been paid more than 3 million to implode in the bullpen. You don’t have to look much further than former Blue Jay Brett Cecil, who is currently carrying a 5.12 ERA in the first of a 4 year, 30.5 million dollar contract. We’ve seen Cecil turn it around before, but the Cards likely aren’t feeling good about their investment at the moment.
Another example of 2017 free agent who has struggled in the bullpen is Neftali Feliz, now formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers. Feliz was designated for assignment on Wednesday, as the Brewers recalled Matt Garza to the big leagues.
Feliz signed with the Brewers in the offseason to a 1 year, 5.35 million dollar contract, that also allowed for him to earn up to 6.85 if he hit his incentive marks. Obviously he’s not going to be earning those incentives with the Brewers now.
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Unfortunately the 29 year old had struggled with the Brewers, despite being named the closer to begin the campaign. He was sporting at 6.00 ERA through 29 appearances, and had allowed five walks per nine innings, as well as 2.7 home runs. He did manage to save 8 games in the early going, but obviously lost his grip on the role as he continued to struggle.
Now that the Brewers have designated him, there’s a pretty slim chance that another team is going to pick up his salary for the remainder of the year. However, a similar situation presented itself to the Blue Jays last season, when they acquired a pair of veteran relievers who had been struggling with their current teams, and were had on the cheap. Of course, I’m talking about Jason Grilli and Joaquin Benoit, who were both lights out for the team, and cost next to nothing.
Might Feliz be the next reliever to turn things around in a new environment? The 2010 AL Rookie of the Year had a solid season in Pittsburgh last year, as he was the latest pitcher to turn his career around under the tutelage of Ray Searage. It was expected that he might earn a longer contract than a single year in free agency, but he settled on the Milwaukee offer later in the market.
There’s no magical formula, especially when it comes to relievers, but it seems like a change of scenery is a frequent difference maker, as was the case for Benoit and Grilli last season. Feliz is still averaging over 96 MPH on his fastball, so it’s not as if he’s setting into an early career regression either.
He could very well be the type of arm that could help solidify the back end of the bullpen as the Blue Jays eye the dog days of summer. They’ve received solid production from the likes of Barnes and Tepera, among others, but adding another veteran arm to the fold never hurts, especially when he might be had for next to nothing.