Are the Tampa Bay Rays Preparing to Trade Kyle Farnsworth?

By Robbie Knopf

When Jesse Crain joined the Rays, he went straight onto the team’s disabled list as he continues rehabbing a shoulder strain. The Rays moved Brandon Gomes to the 60-day DL to accommodate him on the roster, and since Gomes has already been on the DL for 60 days anyway, that roster move doesn’t affect the Rays current team at all. But it won’t be long before Crain gets healthy enough to pitch, and the Rays will have a decision to make: which member of their bullpen will be sent packing as Crain establishes himself as one of Joe Maddon‘s most trusted setup relievers? It appears that the Rays may have already made their choice.

According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, the Rays have suddenly made right-hander Kyle Farnsworth available in trade talks. Farnsworth is 2-0 with a 5.18 ERA, a 5.8 K/9, a 2.3 BB/9, and a 1.3 HR/9 in 35 appearances and 28 innings pitched, but he has been much better of late. In his last 16 appearances, Farnsworth has managed a 2.51 ERA and a 12-3 strikeout to walk ratio in 14.1 innings pitched, allowing 3 of his 4 runs in one bad appearance on July 23rd. He has also upped his groundball rate to 52.6% in that span, right in line with his 2011 and 2012 numbers. Farnsworth has never been the same since dominating as Rays closer in 2011, but he has reinvented himself as a sinker-slider type of pitcher who also mixes in a mid-90’s four-seamer and a changeup, and he has proven over the last month that he can still be very effective, especially in a lower-leverage role. Only a desperate team would look at Farnsworth as a legitimate setup option, but nearly every contender could use a bullpen arm of some sort and you have to think at least a couple teams will consider Farnsworth. And the best part about this for the Rays is that the Rays don’t have any obligation to trade Farnsworth at all right now.

Crain is coming back, but he will likely be out at least another week, meaning that they could still use Farnsworth until then. They have the flexibility to trade Farnsworth, with pitchers like Josh Lueke and Gomes being possible replacements, but they have no obligation to and only need to trade him if the find the right offer. Dealing from a middle relief surplus is certainly different than dealing from a starting pitcher surplus like the Rays have done in the past, but it’s clear that the Rays will not trade Farnsworth just to trade him. Dealing Farnsworth after the July 31st trade deadline would limit the Rays’ trade partners to whichever team, if any, claims him on trade waivers, but if the Rays don’t get a reasonable offer for Farnsworth, that may just be the way that they’ll go. The Rays usual philosophy is that surpluses at any position tend to sort themselves out. It will take a trade offer that catches their attention to change that.

The Rays aren’t known for doing anything at the trade deadline but they already went against that by acquiring Crain. As it turns out, they may not be done. We will have to see if the right offer comes along to prompt the Rays to make a second trade built around Farnsworth as well.