The Pittsburgh Pirates in an attempt to bolster the bullpen have made a roster move to get a fresh arm to the North Shore.
Feliz came over from the Astros this offseason and has struggled. With Houston, Feliz posted ERA’s of 4.43 and 5.63 in 2016 and 2017. However, there were some peripherals that stood out that the Pirates felt was worth the shot in acquiring him as the third piece in the Gerrit Cole trade.
Feliz posted FIP’s of 3.24 and 3.78 in Houston, but the notable metric was the strikeout rate; Feliz struckout 35.2 percent and 32.1 percent of hitters and got swinging strikes 13.6 percent and 14.2 percent of the time in 2016 and 2017.
The indications and stuff to work with haven’t worked out in Pittsburgh. Feliz has seen his ERA stay above 5.00, coming in at 5.53. While his FIP is 3.94 – Feliz still a little unlucky – the swing and miss and strikeout rates have both seen a decrease. This season Feliz has only gotten a swing and miss 9.0 percent of the time, and that has translated to a strikeout rate of 25.7 percent.
Sending him down to Indianapolis will allow him to work on things, and for him to be playable out of the bullpen Feliz will need to get the swing and miss back. So far, though he hasn’t produced and was one of the pieces in the Pirates offseason trades that was supposed to have an impact in the backend of the bullpen.
In his place the Pirates have recalled Alex McRae, a 25-year-old right-handed pitcher. In Indianapolis this season, McRae has pitched to a tune of a 4.76 ERA in 98.1 innings. He’s posted a strikeout rate of 19.6 percent, walk rate of 9.9 percent, and a groundball rate of 47.2 percent.
McRae doesn’t seem to be a big upgrade – in fact seems more of a lateral move – but the Pirates need some innings after Nick Kingham lasted just three innings last night. The Pirates have been connected to Keone Kela in the last several days, and the trade deadline is this coming Tuesday, it will be interesting to see if the Pirates add Kela or a different reliever either at the deadline or before it.
Overall, Feliz hasn’t produced enough to really warrant a spot, even in low leverage, this season. He’s seen his swing and miss drop and will need to work on that before his next stint in Pittsburgh. McRae doesn’t seem to have all that much potential as a replacement, but at the least he’s a fresh arm. The best route to improving the bullpen will have to come via trade.
*Numbers from Fangraphs