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Milwaukee Brewers’ signing of Neftali Feliz becomes official

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Milwaukee will have a new face taking the mound in the 9th inning.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Milwaukee Brewers Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

The deal was rumored over the weekend, and now it's official -- Neftali Feliz is coming to Milwaukee, presumably to become the Brewers' new closer. According to Jeff Passan, the deal that has finally been completed will pay Feliz a base salary of $5.35 mil with incentives that could boost it as high as $6.85 mil.

Feliz joins a Brewers bullpen that had a few internal options to finish games, but General Manager David Stearns has long talked about his desire to sign a free agent to add to the group. The hard-throwing righty brings extensive 9th inning experience to a team that was largely inexperienced in that department. His addition will fill the Brewers’ 40 man roster to capacity.

A former top starting prospect, Feliz debuted in the bullpen for the Texas Rangers and performed so well the team simply didn't want to take him out of the role. He won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2010 after saving 40 games with a 2.73 ERA (2.96 FIP), striking out 9.22 batters per 9 innings. He followed that up with 32 saves on a 2.74 ERA (3.57 FIP) and a 7.8 K/9 in 2011.

After years of "should he start?" debates in Dallas, Feliz moved to the starting rotation in 2012, but tore his UCL and ended up needing Tommy John surgery. When he came back at the end of the 2013 season, he no longer had the 100-mph heat he once threw with ease, and struggled to adjust.

It would end up being years before Feliz looked comfortable on the mound. He was released by Texas halfway through 2015, caught on with Detroit, and had a disastrous end to the season. His career was revived once he got to Pittsburgh, though, putting up a 3.52 ERA in 53.2 innings last year with a 10.23 K/9 and 28% K%. He also saw his fastball velo return to pre-Tommy John levels, jumping from an average of 94.6 mph to 96.1 mph.

Like many relievers, though, Feliz doesn't come without his warts. He's always struggled with his control, carrying a career 3.43 BB/9 rate. He's also an extreme flyball pitcher, with a career groundball rate of just 36.1% that might lead to some hand-wringing with a full-time move to Miller Park.

Feliz has also been a bit homer-prone, and coughed up 10 home runs last year after previously never giving up more than 5 in a season. If you're the optimistic type, you can probably look at last year's astronomical 19.2% HR/FB rate, compare it to his career 8.8% HR/FB rate, and say it was more than likely a fluke. If you're not, you may be worried that last year's comeback was smoke and mirrors and he's still cooked as a viable closer.

Going out and buying saves doesn't usually end well, but the Brewers are in a fairly unique position where they aren't expected to contend in 2017 and have plenty of payroll to spare. If this works out well, Feliz could possibly be flipped to a contender at the trade deadline. If it goes up in flames, the Brewers can eat a relatively low one-year sunk cost and wash their hands of the deal.

Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs