Tales of Feliz, Bard figure to scare off future starting conversions

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If the Reds were still thinking of putting Aroldis Chapman into the rotation next year, today’s announcement will surely give them pause.

Former Rangers closer Neftali Feliz will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss most or all of 2013 after being diagnosed with a torn UCL in his elbow. It means two of this year’s three big relief-to-starting pitching conversions have gone awry, as Daniel Bard is currently trying to figure things out back in the pen at Triple-A Pawtucket.

For what it’s worth, the third has been a huge success, what with Chris Sale pitching in the All-Star Game for the White Sox. However, that came with a hiccup, as concerns about his elbow prompted the White Sox to shift Sale back to the pen briefly in May. It was thought to be a permanent conversion, with Sale going into the closer’s role, but the left-hander was able to talk them out of it.

Personally, I’ve always felt that midseason relief-to-SP conversions were a bad idea. The Braves are actually trying that again with Kris Medlen now, even though the same switch two years ago likely led to his need for Tommy John surgery. The Padres tried it with Andrew Cashner this year, and he quickly landed on the DL, though not with an arm problem.

The Rangers, Red Sox and White Sox all prepared their youngsters as best they could, using them as starters in spring training and going slowly with them. Feliz got off to a nice start after the move, going 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in 42 2/3 innings, but his elbow put him on the DL in mid-May. Bard was simply horribly inconsistent in going 5-6 with a 5.24 ERA. He had a 34/37 K/BB ratio in 55 innings.

Chapman was the big name some thought might go from the pen to the rotation next year, but he’s been so strong in as a reliever that it’d take a lot of guts for the Reds to make the switch. There aren’t many other youngsters likely to make the move.  The Cubs could try turning Arodys Vizcaino back into a starter next year after getting him from the Braves in Monday’s Paul Maholm-Reed Johnson deal. He’s missed the entire 2012 season following Tommy John surgery. Tampa Bay’s Wade Davis, a starter throughout his career until this year, could be put back into the rotation if traded, but he seems to have come along nicely as a reliever and is probably better off there.

Yasmani Grandal signs a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox

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The first truly big free agent signing of the offseason has gone down: the Chicago White Sox just announced that they have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.

Grandal, 31, was the best catcher available in free agency. He is coming off a fine year with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he had to settle for a one-year pact in 2019. He hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers and 77 driven in. It was his fourth straight season with 20+ homers. While his catching has been criticized due to some high-profile mistakes in the postseason, the two-time All-Star once again proved himself to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game if not the best. Between the bat and the glove he has a claim to being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.

The signing leaves open the question of what happens to James McCann, who was himself an All-Star this year. It’s not that hard a question, of course, as Grandal is a far superior catcher to McCann in every respect. The Sox could make McCann a backup. Alternatively, they could try to trade him to fill other holes on the roster.

The White Sox finished 72-89 in 2019 but are showing signs of coming out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. This signing pushes them a big step into that direction.