Tanner Scheppers has expressed his interest in replacing Joe Nathan as the Rangers’ closer in 2014, but T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com pegs Neftali Feliz as the favorite to return to his former role:
Joe Nathan is now with the Tigers and the Rangers will have a new closer in 2014. They will likely settle the issue by going back to the old closer. Neftali Feliz had the job during the World Series years of 2010-11 before being derailed by Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.
Feliz appears to be healthy again, which puts him in position to be the Rangers’ closer coming out of Spring Training. If Feliz is not ready, the Rangers could turn to premier setup reliever Tanner Scheppers or former Royals All-Star closer Joakim Soria. All are potentially good options but right now the job is Feliz’s to lose.
Feliz began his major league career as a reliever and notched 72 saves in the closer role from 2010-2011, but the Rangers moved him to the rotation in 2012. However, the experiment quickly backfired, as he made just seven starts and one relief appearance prior to blowing out his elbow and undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery. The 25-year-old right-hander spent most of 2013 in rehab mode, eventually tossing 4 1/3 scoreless innings as a September call-up. It sounds like the Rangers have moved on from the idea of using Feliz as a starter, but assuming his velocity bounces back, he would be a logical and cost-effective replacement for Nathan.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.