Last week the Houston Astros confirmed the foregone conclusion that new team member Scott Feldman would be the Opening Day starter vs. the New York Yankees. 2014 will mark the sinker-baller’s second Opening Day start of his career, the first coming four years prior as a Texas Ranger.
The Astros signed Feldman, 31, to a 3-year contract worth $30 million, so this day was coming and despite failing to make any waves in Spring Training, he was going to start game 1 of 162 for the Astros. The formality was just a matter of time.
Converted to a starter in 2008, Scott Feldman ascended to the top of the Texas rotation two seasons later, earning himself a payday as well for two seasons and $11.5 million with an optimistic option of $9.25 million dollars in 2012. Unfortunately for both parties involved, the Rangers only got 22 starts out of their Opening Day starter, who went 7-11 and made seven appearances trotting out of the bullpen.
The shine quickly wore off for the reigning no.1 starter, albeit if only by numerical value. He had right knee surgery in the off-season and made a couple of rehab starts in AA and then ran the minor league total to 10 with eight starts in AAA before being deemed fit for Major League duty (ha) once again.
On July 13, 2011 Feldman was activated from the disabled list at last — just to be outrighted to the minors, this time as a healthy arm without a spot on the active team roster. Well, Feldman declined this assignment after clearing waivers and the Rangers brought him up as a bullpen arm. Their rotation at the time did not have room for the previous season’s Opening Day starter as the team had just added Ryan Dempster to the mix in preparation for another World Series run. But because it was Dempster, Feldman did in fact make two starts down the stretch.
In 11 games Feldman notched a 3.94 ERA but pitched rather impressively in the Rangers postseason. But it had long been known that the Rangers were not going to exercise their team option of $9.25 million, making Feldman a free agent for the first time in his career.
He signed with the Chicago Cubs for the 2013 season as a trial-and-error rental for the rebuilding club. By the trade deadline the Cubs had indeed cashed in on Feldman, obtaining young pitchers Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, as well as international signing money from the Baltimore Orioles. Feldman was re-united with his first manager, Buck Showalter, and was a key cog in the Orioles rotation along with fellow trade acquisition and former Astro Bud Norris!
The Orioles fell short of the playoffs though after breaking a 15-year postseason drought the prior season on the back of Joe Saunders…don’t even get me started on that. The Rangers fan in me can’t even…ugh…and Saunders is now in-house with Texas battling for a rotation spot…ugh, anyway.
Feldman was on the market in previous seasons. However, his value was much much higher this time around. Or so the results indicate.
The Philadelphia Phillies were reportedly interested, but since the Ed Wade General Manager era from 2007-2011 in Houston, whatever goes on in the “City of Brotherly Love” seems to find it’s way to the “Space City.” (Related note: Rangers-Cubs, Diamondbacks-Angels, Dodgers-Marlins, Padres-A’s seem to be compatible trade partners more often than not – must be on speed dial?)
I’m not Ken Rosenthal or that kid who is all over the Winter Meetings so I’m not totally certain on the whole situation, but regardless Scott Feldman ended up with the rebuilding Astros. He netted a juicy and high-security (not like the Mandarin’s palace in Iron Man 3 am I right?) of 3/$30 million dollars. It seemed like an overpay at the time and honestly it probably still does, but the Astros are still in major rebuild and though some of the many, many young hurlers of the future are opening the 2014 marathon with the big league club (Jarred Cosart, Brett Oberholtzter, and maybe Brad Peacock) the team wanted a veteran anchor that could…
A. do just that and mentor a very, very young pitching staff in the pros, minors, rotation and bullpen and beyond. Obviously Masahiro Tanaka or Matt Garza or A.J. Burnett or Bronson Arroyo were looking at playing for a contender, but Feldman took on the role (and the pay) to do the previously mentioned mentoring chores for the Astros for $10 million a year for three years.
Ricky Nolasco took a comparable deal in Minnesota with the Twins but for another year and $19 million more.
Bartolo Colon took an even more similar contract with the New York Mets at 2/$20 million to anchor as well as mentor the young Mets pitchers.
Nolasco’s price was too high for Houston and as for Colon, come on we gotta keep the roof open sometimes and he’s…he’s BFBC!
All of these players are trade chips in the big picture but in the meantime Nolasco, Colon and Feldman will be aces by default for teams on the up and up.
The Texas Rangers made the World Series for the first time ever the season following Scott Feldman’s Opening Day start, with Feldman playing a key role out of the bullpen in the end.
Although some credit goes to new front office management (Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer), is it a coincidence the Chicago Cubs have gone from very messy up top and shallow throughout the organization to possessing a very strong group of prospects and a quickly re-ignited fire for the club’s future just a short year after signing Scott Feldman? Absolutely. But still, they’re in a SUBSTANTIALLY better position entering 2014 than they were in 2013 thanks to many trades, just like sending Feldman to Baltimore for three assets.
So am I expecting the Astros to be in the World Series in 2015? Only in extended dream sequences and maybe MLB The Show, but the team is destined for contention in a matter of years with anticipated progression coming from all over the diamond in Houston, Oklahoma City, Round Rock, Lancaster and beyond. Having someone like Scott Feldman and his year-after good luck charm mojo can’t hurt.