Neftali Feliz went back and forth on whether he actually wanted to move to the rotation after saving 40 games as a rookie closer last season, but now it’s a moot point: T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that Feliz will remain in the bullpen.
He’ll be joined there by fellow flame-thrower Alexi Ogando, whose spring rotation tryout also resulted in the Rangers deciding against changing his role. Feliz, unlike Ogando, was actually a full-time starter for most of his time in the minors, but at this point his odds of ever leaving the bullpen are pretty slim.
It’s possible that the Rangers could pursue a veteran closer this offseason and then decide the bullpen is more able to withstand the loss of Feliz next season, but by then he’ll have gone nearly three years without starting regularly and, if he has another outstanding season as a closer, the fan and media sentiment to keep him as a reliever will be even stronger. Which is a shame. Moving a 23-year-old pitcher to the bullpen full time is something teams should do only after they conclude that he’s not capable of being an impact starter and that verdict certainly hasn’t been reached with Feliz.
Generally speaking a very good starter is simply more valuable than a great closer and it’d be nice to see what Feliz could do in a 200-inning role before locking him into a 70-inning role, especially since manager Ron Washington repeatedly failed to get Feliz into tight games throughout the playoffs and resorted to bringing him into blowouts just to get his best reliever a grand total of seven innings in 16 postseason games. And while keeping Feliz as a reliever makes the Rangers’ bullpen significantly stronger, it also means the starting rotation will include guys like Tommy Hunter and Matt Harrison throwing three times as many innings.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?