Saturday, I made a case that the Detroit Tigers should add another arm to their current bullpen mix. This off-season’s pool of free agent relievers is deep, and this market condition could allow the Tigers to sign a veteran at a bargain rate. 36-year-old right-hander Kyle Farnsworth may be that veteran.
Detroit has already acquired Farnsworth twice in trades, before the 2005 season and partway through 2008. The second time around, they got him for Ivan Rodriguez in a disappointing one-for-one swap with the New York Yankees. In 16 appearances with the Tigers then, Farnsworth posted an atypically inflated 6.75 ERA. Given his career track record, though, it’s reasonable to contend he would fare much better in a potential third stint with Detroit.
Over the last three seasons, Farnsworth has a FIP of 3.16 in 149.1 innings, good for 28th-best among relievers who’ve thrown at least 140 innings over the same time-frame. In addition, he has an 8.26 K/9 and a 3.01 ERA. Including the black mark on his resume from 2008, he has a 1.69 ERA in 42.2 career innings at Comerica Park.
He closed 25 games for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 and has a total of 52 career saves. That limited closer experience makes him more appealing, especially if the Tigers intend to hand rookie Bruce Rondon save opportunities starting this spring. If Rondon falters, Detroit would have an abundance of experience in their bullpen to back him up in Farnsworth, Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel, and Phil Coke.
Farnsworth would not make the Tigers any younger, and the main issue with him is one they might have to get used to considering the age of their bullpen: injuries. This past season, he missed the first three months due to an elbow injury. When he returned, his velocity had lowered and he pitched to a 4.00 ERA in 27 innings. Still, he kept a low line drive rate of 11% and surrendered just a single home run.
He may come with risk, but he will probably demand less than $3 million on a one-year contract, meaning not much would be at stake. If he is healthy, he’s a reliable pitcher who would do much to stabilize Detroit’s bullpen, and it would cost the team next to nothing.