Monday, February 7, 2011

The Pedro Feliz Signing: A Non-Story

Earlier I found myself compelled to write a FanPost over at Royals Review after a conversation about Brian Cashman died off. If you feel so compelled and haven't already read it, it is here. Seeing as though I've already written one 1,300+ word baseball piece today (I've been writing all of these on Sunday night), I don't anticipate this entry being especially long.

On Thursday afternoon, the Royals signed Pedro Feliz to a minor-league deal with an invite to Spring Training with the big league club. Since it is a minor-league deal, the $800,000 that the deal was for is only good if he makes the Major League roster. He isn't on the 40-man roster.

Now some are down on this deal. Will McDonald seems to have taken the most extreme defeatist approach* to the signing, specifically in the comments section here. Some of the other commenters seemed to be of the same frame of mind. There were also the reactionary fans at the mostly laughable Facebook page and the Terez A. Paylor Kansas City Star article who started predictably started spouting off about losing Jermaine Dye and Zach [sic] Greinke.

*I want to be clear about this: Will McDonald is on the very short list of the best writers on the Royals. As far as pure writers are concerned, he might well be the best. It does, however, seem like he has been increasingly negative over the past few months. I totally understand how frustrating being a Royals fan is. Things really have been so bad at the Major League level for so long that it is hard not to feel utterly beaten down by the years and years of mismanagement. In terms of free agent acquisitions, Dayton Moore has been terrible, at least judging from the our outside perspective. The only active player with an OBP lower than Yuniesky Betancourt since 2007? You guessed it, Pedro Feliz. This is so funny it hurts. Taken at is face value, though, this signing is simply not one to get worked up over. There just does not seem to be any factual basis to make the assumption that Feliz will get meaningful playing time unless an emergency dictates this. For whatever reason, Will seems to be of a different belief--operating under a worst possible outcome scenario again. Maybe I'm being exceptionally naive with this signing, but Moore seems to be saying all the right things, as Clark Fosler noted at Royals Authority.  

Tough. Bearded. Gritty.
These reactions seem to have gone far past what they reasonably should. Feliz is simply injury insurance. The Royals lost Alex Gordon in Spring Training two seasons ago. Neither Chris Getz nor Mike Aviles are invincible. Wilson Betemit has no business playing third base. I do not see the harm in signing a fairly recent Fielding Bible Award Winner at third base. Up until this past season, he was well above average defensively.

Yes, he is horrible at the plate. Since 2005, he has triple-slashed a mind-numbingly terrible .248/.288/.396. His career OPS+ is 80. Simply put, his offense is offensive.

This is not where his value lies.

Maybe at this point, he cannot play defensively. Last year, he posted a -3.1 UZR in 804.2 IP. It could be that his days of utility with the glove are fully behind him, but this was the first time that he had posted a UZR at third below 7.5 since 2002. His lowest UZR/150 at third before 2010? 8.9. Even with the negative UZR/150 in 2010, his career UZR/150 is still a very good 14.9. For the sake of comparison, Scott Rolen's career UZR/150 is 14.7.

Even if he is done defensively, he isn't guaranteed a roster spot. The $800K is only due to him if he makes the 25-man roster. The $200K he can make in incentives are simply that--incentives. I cannot imagine a scenario in which they aren't based on playing time. After all, in the aforelinked Star article, Dayton Moore is quoted as follows:
When Mike Moustakas is ready to play in the majors, he’s going to be our third baseman. We already feel like we’re covered there if he’s not ready, but this covers us if there’s an injury.
This signing blocks no one. He makes minor league money as long as he's not on the Major League roster. The only way that happens is if there are no other options at third because of injury fallout. If Feliz is playing past June, I'll be shocked. Hell, if he plays at Kauffman at all, I will be pretty surprised.

Inspired by the mention of Face Value...


BrettFan1 said...

I think the negativity regarding this signing is aimed at the evaluation process that led to deciding Pedro Feliz has any kind of value, even if it is just as insurance against injury. The reality is that he can't possibly provide enough defense to make up for his offensive shortcomings. More to the point, GMDM has become so laughably predictable at picking up these type of "worst option possible" players that he should avoid signing anyone who even slightly resembles a low OBP player. I think most of the comments that I have seen are taking this as further evidence that GMDM and his staff don't properly evaluate/value major league talent. Let's face it, if we have the same injury problems at 3B this year as we did last year, bringing up Zawadki(sp?), Arias or Falu would be a much better option than playing (and paying) Feliz.

Josh Duggan said...

@ BrettFan1 - Thank you so much for the comment!

I totally understand the rationale for the most part, but I still think it is an extreme overreaction.

For starters, the money is not guaranteed.

Insofar as Zawadzki and Arias are concerned, I could be wrong, but wouldn't they have to pass back through waivers before they could be re-assigned if they were called up? While Arias is completely expendable, I think they may have been fortunate to sneak Zawadzki back through waivers the first time.

There is also the point that this past season was the only one since 2003 in which Feliz has been worth somewhere around 2.0 WAR. His career UZR/150 is 14.9 at third. Obviously, this is a huge 'if' given his age, but if he can return to form defensively and is actually needed, we've got a capable guy that preserves a year of arbitration eligibility in Moustakas.

Unlike in the cases of Jose Guillen or Yuniesky Betancourt or even Jeff Francoeur, the Feliz deal does not mean as much, largely because his money is not guaranteed. The defensive ceiling for '11 is also a lot higher with him, and it could conceivably make up for other deficiencies should it come to the unlikely circumstance that he plays.

More than likely, this is all moot. It is probably just an unofficial spring training invite that won't amount to anything.