To be fair, Scott Feldman‘s future employer in MLB will likely rest on the decision-makers of the Baltimore Orioles organization, as both the team and player have expressed interest in an encore to their short time together in 2013.
That said, should things not turn out as anticipated, could another AL East team like the Toronto Blue Jays swoop in?
GM Alex Anthopoulos has made it no secret that the team is in dire need of a starting pitcher, and its importance on the team’s wishlist makes it one of those situations where all available — and potentially available — options will be considered. And while Feldman isn’t a likely option to join the Blue Jays in 2014 season and beyond, he does present an intriguing one.
It might not look like it on the surface — as far as his brief numbers in the AL goes, anyway.
See, when the Texas Rangers decided to finally part ways with the former reliever-turned-starter, it was because the experiment had largely turned out to be an expensive bust. Despite what looked like a breakthrough 3.4 fWAR 2009 season and being named as the Opening Day starter in 2010, Feldman was never able to follow up on the promise he showed, his career derailed by a knee injury and ineffectiveness.
In the end, his 4.81/1.41 ERA/WHIP through 727.2 IP with the Rangers was unspectacular, though savvy GMs would have noticed that his 5.09 ERA in 2012 through 123.2 IP was well above his 3.81 FIP. One such GM was Theo Epstein of the Chicago Cubs, who picked up the veteran as a potential bounce-back candidate on a reasonable $6 million deal with $1 million worth in incentives.
Well, it turned out that he was right. Benefiting from the change to the NL, Feldman put up excellent numbers (3.46/1.14 ERA/WHIP) through 91 innings, enough to get the Cubs exactly what they wanted — for a competitor to take the trade bait. That team turned out to be the O’s, with whom Feldman posted a pedestrian 4.27/1.22 ERA/WHIP through 90.2 innings in a failed bid at the postseason.
So, it’s simple for the Blue Jays, right? The guy can pitch in the NL, but is not nearly as effective when it comes to the big bats of the AL.
That’d be an easy way to look at it, but it’s not that simple, really. See, one of the things that the bluebirds were sorely missing was durability from their starters and if anything else, Feldman is just someone who can give them that. Outside of a serious knee injury that require surgery and significant time off, the right-hander hasn’t missed time on the DL in his major league career.
Yes, he has never thrown over 200 innings in a season and made just 30 starts or more twice, but consider the fact that 2013 was the first season of his career where he was used solely as a starting pitcher. He’s not a hard-thrower (89.9 mph average fastball in 2013) and no longer features a slider in his arsenal, which has probably done some good in saving his arm.
Though his stuff means he’s not particularly spectacular (6.54 K/9 in 2012), he does have decent control (2.77 BB/9) and is effective enough at drawing weak contact (18.9 percent line drive rate, 82.9 percent contact) to get outs.
More relevant to the Blue Jays, however, is that the move to the AL Beast ultimately didn’t hurt him as much as it would have seen. Yes, his line drive rate spiked (21.4 percent vs. 16.3) for understandable reasons, but he did improve on his GB/FB rate (1.61 vs. 1.54), and actually gave up fewer home runs (0.89 HR/9 vs 0.99).
Though he certainly won’t be a top-of-the-line starter in Toronto, the stability that Feldman may provide (he’s been a 2.0+ fWAR pitcher in each of the last two seasons) could be worth something like a 2-year deal at just under $10 million per season with a third option year in a good situation for Toronto.
He’ll likely get that third guaranteed year from another team, making the Blue Jays an unlikely suitor; but considering that he could essentially be a cheaper version of Mark Buehrle, Feldman is likely someone that Anthopoulos will want to keep an eye on in case the market around him changes.