The Pittsburgh Pirates beef up the bullpen by signing Neftali Feliz

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a sneaky move on Wednesday – perhaps their best of the offseason – by signing reliever Neftali Feliz to a one year, $3.9 million contract.

Feliz, who was the 2010 Rookie of the Year in the American League, was once praised as a phenom until injuries got the best of him. In 2010 with the Rangers, Feliz set the record for saves by a rookie with 40 and recorded the ALCS-clinching save over the Yankees to reach the World Series.

Unfortunately, the last recollection most fans have of Feliz is from the following season, when he gave up a game-tying triple to David Freese with the Rangers one strike away from winning the World Series. The Rangers would go on to lose the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals and Feliz tried to transition to a starter in 2012.

Having since made the conversion back to the bullpen, the 27-year-old’s biggest nemesis has been the disabled list. He’s been on the shelf for parts of the past four seasons and has pitched in just 92 games in that time.

If Feliz can stay on the field, this can end up as a brilliant signing for the Pirates. He doesn’t have the same velocity that allowed him to throw the third fastest pitch ever recorded but his average fastball speed has increased each of the past three seasons, reaching 94.6 mph in 2015.

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His strikeout numbers have fallen in recent years but his career rate sits at 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings (hint: still good). However, that isn’t the most intriguing thing about Feliz’s game anymore.

The Pirates seem to look for a common tendency in their pitchers and that is the ability to induce ground balls. While Feliz can’t blow people away as easily anymore, his lack of reliance on the fastball has allowed his changeup and slider to develop into better pitches. Opposing batters have hit just .181 against his slider throughout his career and he induced more double plays in 2015 than any season before.

If he can stay healthy, I’d imagine he’ll add a bit more velocity and will add some valuable depth to that bullpen. He wont be the closer for the Pirates but he has maintained that role before and will no doubt aid in shortening the game for Pittsburgh’s rotation.