Kyle Farnsworth Rumors

Rays Exercise Farnsworth’s Option, Not Shoppach’s

The Rays exercised Kyle Farnsworth's 2012 option while declining Kelly Shoppach's, according to the Tampa Tribune (on Twitter). Farnsworth obtains a $3.3MM salary instead of a $650K buyout and Shoppach obtains a $300K buyout instead of a $3.2MM salary.

Farnsworth posted a 2.18 ERA with 8.0 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 57 2/3 innings out of the bullpen in 2011. Shoppach, 31, hit just .176/.268/.339 in 253 plate appearances, but he led the league by preventing 41% of stolen base attempts. The Rays will look to get more offense from behind the plate in 2012.


Free Agent Closers’ Usage

The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.

Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.

Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things — innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on — it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.

During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.

The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.

  • Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
  • Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
  • Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times. 
  • Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
  • Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Players Claimed And Pulled Back

A player who is claimed on waivers can be pulled back by his original team, and it happens regularly.  It could be that the two sides just couldn't reach a deal, or it might be that the original team never intended to trade the player.  Technically a player can be placed on waivers a second time, but it's rare because in that case he cannot be pulled back.  Reportedly, at least 16 players have been claimed and pulled back this month: 

Many players were placed on waivers and were not traded, including John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Paul Konerko, Matt Thornton, Brett Myers, Clint Barmes, and Craig Breslow.  It's safe to assume several of these players were claimed and then pulled back.  Additionally, at least 23 players have cleared waivers and can be traded to any team.



Zambrano, Farnsworth Placed On Waivers

The Cubs' Carlos Zambrano and the Rays' Kyle Farnsworth were among the players placed on waivers yesterday, according to MLB.com's Peter Gammons (via Twitter).  Teams have 48 business hours to make a claim on either player, giving them until Tuesday.  This news doesn't necessarily mean that the Cubs and Rays are looking to deal Zambrano and Farnsworth, respectively.  Hundreds of players are expected to hit the waiver wire in the month of August.

Earlier this week, both players were identified as August trade candidates by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes.


Stark On Bell, Beltran, Rays, Giants

The latest from ESPN's Jayson Stark

  • The Rangers and Phillies are the favorites for Padres closer Heath Bell, with the Cardinals, Angels, Braves, and Reds also in the mix.
  • One executive Stark spoke to wouldn't be surprised to see a dark horse like the Reds or Brewers make a late run at Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran.
  • An official who spoke with the Rays over the weekend said that while they're not trading James Shields, they'll decide later this week on players like Johnny Damon and Kyle Farnsworth.  B.J. Upton could be dealt even if the team closes its 6.5 game wild card deficit.
  • The Rays and Blue Jays have been scouting each other's farm systems recently.  One scout speculated that the Jays could join a three-team Upton trade somehow.
  • One team says Brian Sabean's off-limits prospects are Zack Wheeler, Heath Hembree, and Gary Brown, along with Brandon Belt.  That'd leave the team without any top 50 prospects to move, with Francisco Peguero and Ehire Adrianza in the next tier based on Baseball America's preseason rankings.  There's also Double-A lefty Eric Surkamp, who brought his ERA down to 2.00 yesterday.
  • The Phillies are steering teams to their High-A Clearwater club, as they don't want to trade big leaguers and not to add much more than a million bucks in payroll.  Jonathan Singleton, Brody Colvin, Trevor May, Sebastian Valle, and Jiwan James are names to watch there assuming Jarred Cosart is untouchable.  Stark says the Phillies have cooled on Beltran and Hunter Pence is a long shot, so the focus is now the back end of the bullpen.  Heath Bell is the top target, with Brandon League also on the radar.

AL East Rumors: Farnsworth, Upton, Kuroda

The Rays remain on the fringe of contention, 6.5 games out in the wild card.  The other four AL East teams have clear positions: the Yankees and Red Sox are buyers, and the Blue Jays and Orioles are sellers.  The latest:


Olney On Deadline Plans For AL Teams

ESPN's Buster Olney outlined plans for National League teams heading into the trade deadline yesterday, and today he follows up with the American League in an Insider-only column that comes highly recommended. Here's a brief recap…

  • The Mark Ellis trade could just be the first domino that falls for the Athletics. Other veterans like Josh Willingham, Coco Crisp, and Grant Balfour could follow him out the door.
  • The Twins aren't as willing to trade now as they were a few weeks ago, and the big question they have to ask themselves is if eating a chunk of the $5.5MM left on Michael Cuddyer's contract is worth it to trade him.
  • We've heard this before, but B.J. Upton and Kyle Farnsworth of the Rays figure to draw interest.
  • The Red Sox and Angels don't have a lot of financial flexiblity and are more likely to target smaller pieces.
  • Jeff Francoeur, Melky Cabrera, and Wilson Betemit are all affordable and reasonably productive, but Olney notes that the Royals might want to keep some veterans around so the youngsters don't get pounded.
  • The Indians and Mariners will not blow up their rebuild processes despite their surprising runs at contention. Erik Bedard's injury took away Seattle's best chip.
  • Poor seasons from Alex Rios and Adam Dunn make it difficult for the White Sox to do anything. They need those two to get back on track more than anything.
  • The Yankees are convinced their internal pitching options are better than what's available on the market right now. A Rafael Soriano setback would put them in the reliever market.
  • It's all about right-handed relief pitching for the Rangers, who will have plenty of options to choose from. The Blue Jays have lots of bullpen help to deal.
  • The Tigers are asking around about pitching, specifically left-handers.
  • The Orioles are having an internal debate about whether or not to trade Jeremy Guthrie, but they are expected to at least listen to offers.

Quick Hits: Farnsworth, Durbin, Izzy, Duchscherer

Here are a few items of note for Jan. 29, 53 years to the day after Stan Musial became the National League's highest-paid player with the one-year, $100K contract he signed with the Cardinals …

  • The Rays will pay Kyle Farnsworth $2.6MM in salary in 2011, tweets Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times. If Farnsworth's option for 2012 is picked up, he will earn $3.3MM that year. If it's declined, the buyout is $650K. The deal also includes up to $300K in incentives for games finished.
  • The Phillies have not re-signed free-agent reliever Chad Durbin because he is seeking a two-year deal at a higher annual salary than the club is comfortable giving him, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Philly is also intent on preserving the roster spot for the sake of grooming younger relievers, according to Stark.
  • The Reds will decide whether to sign free-agent reliever Jason Isringhausen after watching him throw a bullpen session on Monday in Arizona, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Isringhausen signed a minor-league deal with the Reds last July but did not appear in any games for them. He last appeared in the big leagues with the Rays in June 2009, a stint that ended when he suffered an arm injury that required Tommy John surgery.
  • The Orioles remain fairly interested in free-agent pitcher Justin Duchscherer after receiving positive feedback on the right-hander's Friday bullpen session, blogs Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.

AL East Notes: Jays, Soriano, Farnsworth, Arroyo

Some news items from the AL East…

  • Toronto's payroll could end up being in the $80-$85MM range, tweets FOXSports.com's Jon Paul Morosi.  The Blue Jays currently have just under $49MM committed for 2011 (according to Cot's Baseball Contracts) and have eight players eligible for arbitration.  Jose Bautista will get the biggest raise of this group, but even with notables like Yunel Escobar and Brandon Morrow also arb-eligible, the Jays should have a bit of money left to spend beyond settling their arbitration cases.
  • Perhaps the Jays' extra money could be spent on Brian Fuentes?  We heard about Toronto's interest in Fuentes earlier this week, and now SI's Jon Heyman tweets that the Jays are still "pressing for" the free agent reliever.
  • Did Scott Boras wait too long for a Rafael Soriano market to develop?  Fangraphs' R.J. Anderson thinks this might be the case, and that Soriano might have to settle another one-year contract with the hopes of finding a long-term deal next offseason.
  • A bit of early reaction to Tampa Bay's agreement with Kyle Farnsworth: CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler thinks the signing is risky, but believes the Rays need to take chances on their bullpen if they want to contend.  Meanwhile, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs thinks the Rays made a better deal for Farnsworth than Boston did with Bobby Jenks, given that Farnsworth and Jenks put up comparable numbers over the last two seasons.
  • Bronson Arroyo tells Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald that he enjoyed pitching for the Red Sox and wouldn't mind returning: "Even though I can safely say that I’ve cemented myself in Cincinnati for a while, [Boston] definitely still feels like home and in the back of my mind I know that there is no better place to play than in Fenway Park."  Arroyo said when his three-year extension with the Reds runs out after the 2013 season, he would be interested in pitching for the Rays (to play close to his family), returning to the Red Sox, or staying in Cincinnati.
  • MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli has details on the vesting option included in Kevin Gregg's contract with the Orioles.  Gregg's 2013 option will become guaranteed if he finishes 50 games in 2012, or if he finishes 100 games total in 2011-12.  As SI's Jon Heyman tweeted in the previous link, Gregg will earn between $6-$10MM in 2013 if his option vests.
  • Matt Bush, the first overall pick of the 2004 draft, talks to MLB.com's Dawn Klemish about his battle with alcoholism and the progress he's made in the Tampa Bay organization.

Rays Sign Kyle Farnsworth

The Rays have officially signed Kyle Farnsworth to a one-year deal, according a team press release.  The agreement was first reported by Steve Slowinski of DRaysBay and confirmed by ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter links). The deal will pay the Barry Meister client $3.25MM in 2011 and could be worth $6MM over two years, since there's an option for 2012. 

Farnsworth posted a 3.34 ERA with 8.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 64 2/3 innings for the Royals and Braves last year. The 34-year-old's 41% ground ball rate is unremarkable, but it's higher than it was earlier in his career, when he was more of a fly ball pitcher. Farnsworth doesn't throw quite as hard as he once did, but his average fastball was still 94.9 mph last year. That was enough to place Farnsworth at the top of MLBTR's list of the hardest throwing free agent relievers.

The Rays have added bullpen candidates Adam Russell, Cesar Ramos, Joel Peralta, Chris Archer, Cory Wade, J.P. Howell and R.J. Swindle this offseason. That's a promising group of players, but Andrew Friedman's acquisitions are considerably less established than the collection of Rays relievers that hit free agency after the season. 

As MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker shows, former Rays relievers Rafael Soriano, Grant Balfour and Chad Qualls are among the remaining unsigned arms.

It's been a publicly quiet offseason for Farnsworth since the Braves declined his $5.25MM option for 2011 at the beginning of November.