Rays Bring Back Kyle Farnsworth, Solidify Bullpen


Nine days ago, I said that if right-hander Kyle Farnsworth would be willing to settle for a salary between 1.5 and 2 million dollars and understand that the Rays would use him in a lesser role in their bullpen next year, the Rays would be happy to bring him back. That is almost exactly what took place today as Jerry Crasnick of ESPN and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports have reported that the Rays have agreed with Farnsworth on a 1-year deal worth between 1.25 and 1.5 million dollars, although incentives could bring the total value of the deal up to 3 million dollars. Farnsworth will give the Rays another power arm for their bullpen, and although the Rays don’t have a late-inning need at this point, Farnsworth has the ability to be a weapon in a middle relief role.

Considering Fernando Rodney will make just 2.5 million dollars next season and Joel Peralta will make 3.5 million dollars, why did the Rays give Farnsworth a potential 3 million dollars that he can get if he simply stays healthy and pitches decently all season? The easy answer is that the middle innings matter just as much as the late ones, and that is even more the case now with James Shields departing from the Rays rotation, which will put more pressure on the bullpen. Farnsworth has been a setup man basically his entire career, and it had to be an adjustment for him last year entering in the 7th inning or earlier in most of his games for just the second time in his career, especially one year after serving as a full-time closer for the time in 2011 and pitching great. But Farnsworth pitched fine- his overall numbers in 2012 weren’t so pretty, but take out his first two appearances and final three, and Farnsworth actually managed a 2.16 ERA, a 7.6 K/9, and a 2.9 BB/9 in his other 29 appearances, which is great. Especially as the elbow issues that afflicted him in the first half of 2012 move into the past, Farnsworth can continue to be an effective relief pitcher. He can still touch the mid-90’s with his fastball but has managed to reinvent himself with a low-to-mid-90’s sinker that has helped him generate groundball rates over 50% after being a major flyball pitcher earlier in his career. Farnsworth also still features his sharp slider that remains a great swing-and-miss pitch and the cutter he added to his repertoire three seasons ago to miss some more bats and force weak contact. Even if Farnsworth isn’t the pitcher he once was and him closing or even setting up for the Rays next season is something that will happen only in a nightmare scenario, he can still be a very valuable reliever and a key piece of the Rays’ bullpen next season.

With Farnsworth in the fold, the Rays can basically be done making additions to their major league pitching staff. Here’s what the roster situation for the pitchers looks like  entering spring training.

SP1- David Price
SP2- Jeremy Hellickson
SP3- Matt Moore
SP4- Alex Cobb
SP5- Jeff Niemann/Roberto Hernandez/Chris Archer
CL- Fernando Rodney
SU- Joel Peralta
LMR- Jake McGee
MR- Kyle Farnsworth
MR- Archer or Hernandez
LR- Cesar Ramos
Last spot if the Rays carry 12 pitchers- Jamey Wright, Brandon Gomes, Alexander Torres, or Dane De La Rosa

The Rays still have a starting surplus, and then their bullpen is loaded with four dependable guys in Rodney, Peralta, McGee, and Farnsworth, a pitcher in Ramos who showed flashes last year, and then a couple of players with electric arms in Archer and Hernandez before we get to quite a few solid candidates for that last spot. James Shields and Wade Davis may be gone, but the Rays still have quite a pitching staff on their ballclub both in their rotation and bullpen. The Rays could still add another relief arm if the right opportunity comes about, but there’s no urgency now that Farnsworth is under contract.

Since beginning his MLB career with a 6-year stint with the Chicago Cubs, Farnsworth has never spent three entire years with the same team, coming closest in his disastrous stint in the New York Yankees. Now, he finally has some stability as he’ll spend his third straight year with the Rays, and in return, he will give the Rays a veteran presence and an electric arm in the middle of their bullpen as they look to find some continuity of their own and keep their bullpen right up there among the best in baseball. Kyle Farnsworth is no longer the flashy late-inning power arm that he was as recently as two years ago- but he still has plenty left in his arm and the ability to be a major of the Rays’ bullpen next season, and a return to Tampa Bay worked out perfectly for both him and the Rays.