By signing Joe Nathan to a two-year, $14.5 million contract the Rangers showed that they’re committed to moving Neftali Feliz into the rotation and the 23-year-old closer issued a statement saying he’s on board with the switch:
Jon Daniels and Ron Washington called me a couple of days ago and told me about the team’s decision for me to be a starting pitcher next season. I was a starter for my whole career before I came to the major leagues. I am happy to know the team’s decision this early, and I have plenty of time to get ready. I have already started running. I have time to work on my changeup and all my pitches. I know I have to work hard to be ready to help my team as a starter so we can get back to the playoffs.
Communicating their intentions ahead of time seems like an important thing after the Rangers waffled on their preference for his role last spring training and Feliz in turn was also unsure. He worked as a starter early in camp and then shifted back to the bullpen, with Alexi Ogando instead emerging as the bullpen-to-rotation success story of 2011.
Feliz has had more success at a younger age than just about any closer in baseball history, but as he said in the statement he came up through the minor leagues as a top-rated starter prospect and it always makes sense to find out if a young pitcher can thrive in a 200-inning role before putting him in a 70-inning role for life.
If he establishes himself as a No. 1 or No. 2 starter and Nathan stays healthy at closer the Rangers will have essentially replaced C.J. Wilson for $7 million per season. And after moving Wilson and Ogando into the rotation during the past two seasons Texas deserves a lot of credit for thinking outside the box with starting pitching.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.
The Red Sox are expecting to go to an arbitration hearing with left-handed reliever Fernando Abad, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski said there was a “decent chance” a hearing would be necessary after countering Abad’s $2.7 million request with $2 million.
Abad, 31, pitched just 12 2/3 innings for Boston after the club acquired him from Minnesota at the trade deadline last season. The lefty earned a cumulative 3.66 ERA, 4.2 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9 for the two teams in 2016. He received $1.25 million in 2016 and will remain under club control (through arbitration) in 2017. A $2.7 million salary would be a hefty increase for the veteran reliever, who has seen a significant decline since he put up a 1.57 ERA for the Athletics in 2014 and who has not amassed more than 0.6 fWAR in any single season to date.
While the Red Sox aren’t close to settling with Abad, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports that they may be closing in on a settlement with left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz filed at $5.7 million, while the Sox felt more comfortable at $3.6 million. The two are expected to meet somewhere in the middle to avoid an arbitration hearing later this winter.