Pedro Feliciano didn’t make this much news when he was almost literally pitching every day for the Mets, but in his short tenure with the Yankees, the once durable lefty has become a hot topic because of his inability to take the ball.
When the Yankees signed Feliciano back in January, the reliever market had exploded and quality left handers were a scarce commodity. So, although the two-year, $8 million deal given to the reliever was a bit of an overpay, it still appeared to be a worthy signing. After Feliciano’s most recent MRI, which revealed a tear in his shoulder capsule, that no longer seems to be the case.
It’s easy to slam Brian Cashman for sinking so much money into a 34-year old pitcher coming off three straight seasons in which he led the league in games pitched, especially after the Yankees’ GM stated that Feliciano was abused during his time as a Met. Such a statement naturally led many to wonder why Cashman would pursue the signing if he felt Feliciano might be damaged goods, but the issue is much more complicated. After all, Feliciano’s workload could just as easily have been interpreted as a sign of extraordinary durability instead of evidence that his shoulder was a ticking time bomb. Based on the other options available, Cashman took a calculated risk. Unfortunately for him, it exploded in his face.
The Yankees aren’t strangers to signing free agent relievers with a history of heavy workloads. In 2003, the team inked Paul Quantrill to a two-year deal following three seasons in which he too led the league in appearances. In his first season with the Yankees, Quantrill led the league for a record fourth straight time, but after bouncing around with three teams in 2005, his career was over. Steve Kline was the only other reliever to lead the league in appearances for three straight seasons with a minimum of 80 games in each year, but he showed no ill effects from the workload. Following his trifecta, Kline pitched in at least 66 games over the next six seasons.
Seasons with Over 80 Appearances
*Led the league with at least 80 appearances in three straight seasons.
The most interesting part of the story really isn’t Feliciano’s injury or the merits of the signing, but Cashman’s brutal honesty when discussing the topic. As previously mentioned, Cashman didn’t shy away from stating that the Mets had “abused” Feliciano, but the suddenly loquacious Yankees’ GM raised eyebrows even further by responding to critics who called him a hypocrite following his initial remarks. In response to his critique of the Mets, references to Scott Proctor were hurled at Cashman, but on today’s conference call, he deflected that criticism by basically shifting the blame to Joe Torre. Cashman even suggested that he went so far as to advise pitchers like Proctor and Ron Villone to refuse the ball in order to protect their careers, which can only be viewed as a knock against Torre’s bullpen management.
In the same interview, Cashman stated that he didn’t think he was (or at least didn’t mean to be) throwing hand grenades, but there have been explosions all around this issue since Feliciano came down with a bum shoulder. Once the smoke clears, the Yankees will either have to find another lefty for the bullpen, or hope Boone Logan can revert to his 2010 form. Considering the paucity of options available in the offseason, it probably won’t be easy to find a replacement in April, so reinforcements will have to come from within. With all the weighty words that Cashman has been throwing around since the off season, maybe he’ll audition for the role?