Phillies solidify hot corner with Feliz
Stellar glove man takes two-year deal to join dominant infield
PHILADELPHIA -- Third baseman Pedro Feliz toiled in obscurity while playing in San Francisco for all of this century, while a certain controversial slugger shattered Hank Aaron's all-time home run mark.Thousands of miles away, on a different coast and with a new team, Feliz may enjoy the same relative anonymity as a member of a stacked infield that is arguably the best foursome in the National League. It's hard to stand above when two members of that quartet have won the past two NL Most Valuable Player Awards, and the other is the league's best second baseman. But being an unknown is fine with Feliz. "It's a winning team with a lot of great hitters," Feliz said Thursday, in his introduction to the Philadelphia media, two days after agreeing to a two-year contract worth $8.5 million. "They're going to be defending a [National League East] championship, and it's going to be exciting. We have a lot of talent and it's going to a fun competition." Feliz, who will turn 33 in April, hit .253 with 20 homers and 72 RBIs with the Giants in 2007, including a .310 batting average with runners in scoring position. He adds right-handed punch to the Phillies' lineup. The right-handed hitter's deal includes performance bonuses and a team option for 2010. The signing comes after an on-again, off-again pursuit by the Phillies that has roots at the Winter Meetings. Feliz, who bears a strong resemblance to Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, signed with the Giants in 1994 as an 18-year-old third baseman. He participated in the 2002 World Series, a loss to the Angels in seven games. In a perfect world, Feliz would've remained by the Bay. "The process went a long way," he said. "It didn't work out with San Francisco. I enjoyed being there for 14 years, and now I get to find another place to be happy. I don't know [why the Giants didn't try harder to keep me], but I would like to. The only thing now is that I'm in a new place and I have a new team." The Giants had made Feliz an offer. Though it was believed to be for more money, it didn't include an option for a third year.
"After we made a two-year offer and it was dismissed out of hand, we felt we needed to move on," Giants GM Brian Sabean told the San Francisco Chronicle.That was fine with the Phillies, who grew more optimistic each day. "He was still out there, we could fit him on the payroll and it seemed like the right thing to do for us, so we moved forward," assistant general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said. Feliz has, too, joining the Phillies. As the NL's best fielding third baseman, he'll also solidify the defense. His signing squashes the expected platoon of Greg Dobbs and Wes Helms, with Helms likely to be dealt by Opening Day. "We have a lot of bodies [at third] and we have to work through it," Amaro said, "but we'll let [manager] Charlie [Manuel] pencil Pedro in at third base. Spring Training has a way of working things out."
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.