Pedro Feliciano is the latest bullpen arm to burn the New York Yankees. Feliciano has signed a contract to return to the New York Mets on a minor league deal, two years after signing a two-year, $8 million deal with the Yankees. However, Feliciano never threw a pitch for the Yankees, as shoulder surgery was necessary to repair a torn rotator cuff. To top it off, the Mets also received a compensatory pick which they used on Michael Fulmer, a promising young pitcher.
Feliciano is the perfect example why teams should not invest heavily in bullpen arms in free agency. The pitchers are often only slightly better than replacement level, if they are even that good. Over the years, the Yankees have sunk tens of millions of dollars into their bullpen, usually to bridge the gap between their starters and Mariano Rivera.
GM Brian Cashman seemingly spent the early and mid-2000s looking for a replacement for Jeff Nelson and Mike Stanton. Steve Karsay, Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill, Mike Myers, and LaTroy Hawkins were all brought in and given multi-million dollar deals.
Some pitchers fared well, like Gordon and recently Rafael Soriano. However, more often than not, big contracts to bullpen arms tend to blow up in a team’s face. Feliciano is just the latest bomb that Cashman has brought in.
Cashman hoped Feliciano would be a lefty arm out of the bullpen to offset the loss of Damaso Marte. However, Cashman ignored the warning signs like Feliciano appearing in 86 games in 2008, 88 games in 2009, and 92 games in 2010, leading the league each year in appearances. While he didn’t log a lot of innings because he was only facing left-handed batters, Feliciano did put a lot of wear on his arm. Still, Cashman wanted a left-handed pitcher and paid handsomely for him.
Instead of Feliciano coming out the pen the Yankees were forced to find alternatives. One of those alternatives was Clay Rapada, whom the Yankees signed to a minor league deal last season. Rapada spent the entire year as the second lefty out of the pen behind Boone Logan, once again proving that you don’t need to throw large sums of money at bullpen arms to get quality in return.