The Rangers signed free agent reliever Joe Nathan to a two-year contract worth $14.5 million with a club option for a third year (and a buyout) on Monday. It means that Neftali Feliz will come into spring training as a member of the club's starting rotation.
One of the club's biggest questions last spring training was whether Feliz would start or be back in the bullpen after winning the 2010 AL Rookie of the Year. He came into spring stretched out as a starter and the spotlight was on him every time he pitched. Because of that, the Rangers decided this offseason that they'd let Feliz know one way or the other what his role would be before spring training began. Now he knows.
This is the right move. It's time to see if Feliz can start. He's more valuable to the Rangers as a starter who can give them innings every fifth day than as a closer. He played a critical role in the bullpen the past to years, but many front office officials wondered if he could start. Now everyone will get to find out.
Is Feliz's secondary stuff good enough? How will he handle the innings workload? No one knows. But we'll never know if he doesn't get the opportunity. I think the timing is right. It's unclear whether C.J. Wilson returns, so the Rangers need to make sure they've got as many good arms in the rotation as they can get. Feliz is one of those. He has an electric fastball and if he can find more consistency with his slider and other secondary pitches (and he'll be forced to throw them more as a starter), he could prove to be a real weapon in the way that Alexi Ogando was for the Rangers for much of 2011.
The move doesn't mean the quest for Wilson ends. But if the lefty gets an offer larger than the Rangers are comfortable with, they've got to be prepared for some alternatives.
The secondary benefit is for Feliz's psyche. I do believe he'll move on from the disappointment of the World Series. But manager Ron Washington said that Feliz was in no condition to pitch after that ninth inning and that's tough on any player knowing the championship was so close. Maybe it doesn't hurt to have Feliz come into spring with a totally different job and focus. Could it help him put Game 6 in his rearview mirror quicker?
Do you like this move? Do you want to see Feliz start?