The Milwaukee Brewers checked the last major item off of their offseason To-Do list earlier this week when they announced the signing of Neftali Feliz. He will presumably slide into the closer’s role that was vacated when Tyler Thornburg was dealt to the Red Sox during December’s Winter Meetings and help fortify a young bullpen. According to a couple of recent reports, however, it appears that Feliz may not have been Slingin’ David Stearns’ first choice to pitch the 9th inning in 2017.
The Oakland Athletics officially announced the signing of Santiago Casilla to a two-year deal yesterday, and during a conference call with reporters Casilla indicated that the Brewers also made him a contract offer. Casilla also told reporters that he chose the A’s in large part because of his familiarity with the organization, who signed him as an international free agent back in 2000 and with whom he played the first 10 years of his professional career, including parts of six seasons in the big leagues.
Casilla’s deal with the A’s was first reported back on January 11th, three days before the initial dispatches of Feliz coming to Milwaukee, so it’s likely that the Brewers pivoted from negotiating with Casilla once it became clear he was heading to the Golden State. David Stearns told reporters that all talks with Feliz were for a one-year deal, so it’s plausible that they were employing the same strategy while trying to broker an agreement with Casilla. Ultimately, Oakland’s willingness to go to two years may have been what swayed Santiago to sign there rather than come to the Cream City.
Casilla was my personal favorite free agent closer candidate for the Brewers this winter, so it’s a bit disappointing to see that the club was interested but couldn’t hash out deal. As things stand now in the Brewers’ bullpen, Feliz is the presumptive closer with Corey Knebel, Jacob Barnes, and Carlos Torres standing out as candidates to handle the rest of the high-leverage innings. That leaves just a few spots left for guys like Tyler Cravy, Mike Blazek, Jhan Marinez, Tommy Milone, Rob Scahill, Jorge Lopez, and Brent Suter as well as non-roster invitees like Yhonathan Barrios, Forrest Snow, Joba Chamberlain, Andy Oliver, and Ryan Webb to compete for this spring.