Red Sox trade target: Neftali Feliz
The Red Sox bullpen has a been a weakness all season long. Sure, the rotation has been the real problem on the team (Boston’s starting pitching ranks 27th in baseball), but that has led to overworking an already-thin bullpen that has now fallen to just 25th in baseball with a 3.98 ERA. The Red Sox have been forced to promote a number of fringe prospects in the attempt of ameliorating a tired ‘pen, but there might be an elixir on the trade market and it comes in the form of former A.L. Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz.
Once one of the brightest young power arms in the game, Feliz burst onto the scene in 2010 with a 2.73 ERA and 40 saves as the Rangers made it to their first ever World Series. Peripherals suggested that Feliz’s success was legit, as he had 9.2 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and a stingy 2.96 FIP. But though Feliz was similarly good in 2011, saving 32 games with a 2.74 ERA, those peripherals eroded a bit as Feliz’s command faltered.
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In the four seasons since, we’re yet to see the return of the 2009-10 version of Feliz. He has continually struggled with command and his strikeouts have fallen off significantly as he’s yet to top the 7.8 K/9 he had in 2011. Still, Feliz has had relative success (though he has fought through a good deal of injuries) in the seasons since, with 2015 representing the first time that his results have fallen off.
Through 18 games this season, Feliz holds a 4.58 ERA (though a 4.15 FIP actually suggests he’s underperforming his peripherals this time around) with 7.3 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. On Friday, the Rangers designated their former star for assignment and he’s still in DFA limbo as of now. Given his track record of success and the shallow Red Sox bullpen, it appears to be almost a no-brainer for Boston to pursue him.
Now 27 years old, Feliz no longer brings the heat as he did from 2009-11, but his average fastball velocity of 93.7 mph is nothing to be ashamed of. He still has great stuff and the track record of an elite closer. Could the Red Sox look to acquire a recently-DFA’d former Rangers star a la Alexi Ogando?
As of right now, the Red Sox have three reliable relief pitchers between Ogando, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara. If a postseason run is in the cards for this season, the Red Sox will need at least one more big arm in the bullpen and Feliz could give them at least a solid middle-relief arm. Even if he never rebounds to his former heights, he’s a quality reliever even now and the Red Sox would be wise to jump on him while he’s available.