Sunday morning the Pittsburgh Pirates made a roster move that involved designating a reliever for assignment and it was the wrong move to make
Prior to the start of Sunday afternoon’s victory over the Chicago Cubs the Pittsburgh Pirates were busy. General manager Ben Cherington and company made a flurry of roster moves, these moves included designating a reliever for assignment.
As part of Sunday’s roster moves the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed outfielder Ben Gamel off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. To make room for Gamel on the 40-man roster, the Pittsburgh Pirates designated reliever Michael Feliz for assignment. This move came as a bit of a surprise.
Feliz had pitched 7.2 innings this season. In these 7.2 innings he posted a 2.35 ERA and a 1.41 FIP. Feliz has allowed 8 hits, issued just a single walked, struck out 8 and had not allowed a home run. This was a big improvement over his career numbers.
The odds of Feliz sneaking through waivers after being DFA’d appear to be low. His four-seamed fastball averaged 94 MPH and his slider was showing plus potential with a 41.9% whiff rate and a 2297 RPM spin rate.
When Feliz was DFA’d he was replaced on the active roster by Geoff Hartlieb. This move came as a surprise. Hartlieb has struggled throughout his MLB career, but, unlike Feliz, he had never been able to put together an extended period of success.
Yes, Hartlieb posted a 3.63 ERA in 2020, but this came with a 5.03 FIP and an 18.8% walk rate. Prior to being recalled from the Triple-A level, Hartleib owned a 6.91 ERA, 5.35 FIP, 13.6% walk rate and a home run rate of 1.41 HR/9 in 57.1 MLB innings pitched.
In Monday night’s blowout loss against the Reds, Hartlieb made his 2021 debut. Hartlieb continued his career norms in this outing as he struggled to throw strikes, or any other quality pitches. Hartlieb allowed 3 runs on 2 hits, 3 walks and a hit batter in 2 innings pitched. This outing rose Hartleib’s career ERA to 7.15.
Both Feliz and Hartlieb are pitchers who have had MLB careers built around untaped potential. When it came time to making a 40-man roster spot for outfielder Ben Gamel, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to designate Feliz for assignment.
While there is a debate as to who has the higher ceiling between Feliz and Hartlieb, Feliz has the higher floor. Feliz has also proven more in the Majors. For these reasons, he is the pitcher the Pirates should have kept around between the two.