Always seeking depth for their bullpen, the Pittsburgh Pirates have signed free-agent right-hander Neftali Feliz to a one-year deal.
Feliz is coming off a brutal 2015 season split between the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers. The 27-year-old had a 6.38 ERA with 57 hits allowed, 39 strikeouts and 18 walks in 48 innings.
There are reasons to believe, as the Pirates clearly do, that he will be able to turn things around. He's still young, despite having seven years of MLB experience, and his average fastball velocity of 94.6 mph last year was the highest since 2012.
Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted how Feliz's uptick in velocity fits in with the Pirates' current philosophy:
Pirates have hunted velocity the last few years via free agency and trades. Feliz is another big arm— Travis Sawchik (@Sawchik_Trib) January 6, 2016
Injuries have taken a toll on Feliz, limiting him to a total of 44 games from 2012-14 before he was able to pitch in 48 games last year.
But the Pirates have a knack for rehabilitating the careers of pitchers who have been cast aside due to poor performance and/or injuries. Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett and Mark Melancon vastly improved their standing after putting on a black and yellow jersey.
Pittsburgh's bullpen, headlined by Melancon in the closer's role, is already loaded with Tony Watson, Jared Hughes and Arquimedes Caminero serving as the primary setup guys. Feliz just needs to be placed in low-pressure situations early in the year, get command of his fastball and let his power arm do the work.
If Feliz can pitch anywhere near the level he did in his first three years as a member of the Rangers, he'll give the Pirates' already-dominant bullpen another stellar piece to use.