Should The Pirates Extend Neftali Feliz?
This season Neftali Feliz has been one of the Pirates best relievers. However, he is a free agent at the end of the season. So the question is, should the Pirates try to extend Neftali Feliz?
While the Pirates’ bullpen has been inconsistent this season, the back end has been strong all year long. A big reason why the back end of the Pirate bullpen has been a strength all season is Neftali Feliz. Feliz, along with Tony Watson, Mark Melancon before being traded, and now Felipe Rivero have created a dynamic trio all season long.
In the offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates signed Neftali Feliz to a one year, 3.9 million dollar contract. Some people were skeptical of this signing because last season Feliz had a 6.38 ERA combined between the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. However, his 4.05 FIP showed he pitched better than his ERA would indicate.
So far this season, Neftali Feliz has been electric for the Pirates. In 41 1/3 innings pitched he is averaging 10.89 K/9, which is the second highest strikeout rate of his career, and the 2.40 BB/9 he is averaging is the second lowest of his career. Feliz also has a 0.99 WHIP.
The only concerning number on Neftali Feliz is his home run rate. Feliz is allowing 1.74 HR/9. This is both a career high, and alarmingly high. However, the rest of Feliz’ numbers have been dominant enough to overcome this.
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Neftali Feliz has a 3.27 ERA in his 41 1/3 innings pitched this season. However, his 4.10 FIP indicates he has not pitched quite as well as his ERA indicates. But, his 3.31 xFIP shows that he is trending in the right direction.
Since the Pittsburgh Pirates cleared around 15 million dollars in future payroll by trading Francisco Liriano to the Toronto Blue Jays, I would love to see them reallocate some of that money into extending Neftali Feliz. Since Feliz is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season, I would like to see them begin to negotiate with Feliz now. I would not risk letting him hit the open market.
This season Neftali Feliz’s fastball is averaging 95.9 miles per hour. This is the best fastball he has had since he averaged 96.3 miles per hour back in 2010. He has also held opposing hitters to a .212 batting average and a 103 wRC+ off of his fastball this season.
As good as his fastball has been, his slider has been even better. Opposing hitters have just a .167 batting average off of his slider, and and a wRC+ of just 40. Furthermore, his slider has generated an impressive 20.7 percent swing and miss rate. Neftali Feliz is just the latest in a long line of reclamation project success stories for Ray Searage and the Pirates.
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So, should the Pirates look to extend Neftali Feliz? I say a resounding yes. This would give the Pirates Neftali Feliz in the bullpen next season to go along with Antonio Bastardo, Arquimedes Caminero, A.J. Schugel, Felipe Rivero, and Tony Watson. That is one heck of a bullpen.