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A’s claim reliever Michael Feliz off waivers

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Feliz pitched for 3 other MLB teams this year

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

With their bullpen in a late-season slump, the Oakland A’s picked up a new arm on Monday.

The A’s announced that they claimed right-hander Michael Feliz off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.

To make room for Feliz on the 40-man roster, catcher Aramis Garcia was designated for assignment. Feliz is out of minor league options so he’ll also need to be added to the active 28-man roster, meaning another move will need to be made to clear space for him on the current MLB squad.

This is the fourth team of the year for Feliz. He began the season with the Pirates, then in May he was claimed off waivers by the Reds, then in August he was released and signed with the Red Sox. He threw a handful of innings for each club, looking sharp in Pittsburgh, then getting blasted in Cincinnati, and balancing out to mediocre in Boston.

  • Feliz, 2021: 7.32 ERA, 19⅔ ip, 22 Ks, 6 BB, 4 HR, 4.48 FIP, .374 xwOBA

Note: With just the Pirates and Sox, he had a 2.76 ERA in 13 innings.

He began his MLB career in 2015 with the Astros, and spent a few years in Houston’s bullpen striking out 13 batters per nine innings. They sent him to the Pirates in the Gerrit Cole trade, and during his time there he posted a personal-best 3.99 ERA in 2019. For his career, over parts of seven seasons, his general trends are lots of strikeouts but also too many homers.

  • Feliz, career: 5.33 ERA, 246⅓ ip, 324 Ks, 106 BB, 42 HR, 4.13 FIP, .315 xwOBA

That works out to a lofty 11.8 K/9, or 30% of his batters, but also 1.5 HR/9. Statcast has been unimpressed with the amount of hard contact he’s allowed this summer, but for his career his xwOBA mark is around league-average.

The 28-year-old mainly uses a four-seam fastball and a slider, with an occasional changeup mixed in. In his early years in Houston and Pittsburgh he averaged 95-96 mph with his heater, but the last couple seasons he’s dipped down just under 94 mph and the pitch has begun getting knocked around quite a bit. However, his slider has been as nasty as ever this year, and when opponents swing at it they miss it over half the time.

For a look at the slider, here’s Feliz striking out superstar Paul Goldschmidt to end the game and earn his first and only career save.

And here he gets Lorenzo Cain to chase out of the zone.

Feliz has induced a swinging strike on 13% of all his pitches thrown this year, which ranks behind only Jake Diekman among full-time A’s relievers.

As for the corresponding moves, Garcia didn’t hit at all in the majors this year in 94 plate appearances, and fellow catcher Austin Allen got the most recent callup in early September.

  • Garcia, 2021: .205/.239/.318, 55 wRC+, 3 HR, 1.1% BB, 29.8% Ks

We’ll find out the result of Garcia’s DFA in the coming days, which could mean getting claimed by another team or released, or staying in the organization as a non-roster player. Pitcher Burch Smith was DFA’d a week ago but cleared waivers and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Analysis

Why not? At this point anything is worth a try in the bullpen, and Feliz brings strikeout stuff. If he gets hot he could help during these final couple weeks of the postseason race, and if he allows a bunch of homers, well, the A’s were already doing that anyway. The relievers have served up 17 dingers in 96⅓ innings over their past 26 games, during which time they’ve also racked up 10 blown saves split among six different culprits.

Presumably we’ll see another reliever get optioned to Triple-A when Feliz reports. Lefty Sam Moll or righty Miguel Romero could be candidates, as two of the most recent additions from the minors.