The Tigers announced a series of roster moves Friday, designating right-hander Buck Farmer for assignment and selecting the contract of veteran righty Erasmo Ramirez in his place. Detroit also placed Wilson Ramos on the 10-day injured list due to a lumbar strain and recalled catcher Jake Rogers from Triple-A Toledo.
MLive.com’s Evan Woodbery wrote not long before the announcement that the Farmer-for-Ramirez shuffle could be on the horizon. It’s not a huge surprise, given the extent of Farmer’s struggles in 2021; the 30-year-old righty has been tattooed for 15 runs on 15 hits (six homers) and nine walks with 10 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings so far on the young season.
Grisly as those number are, Farmer was one of the team’s better relievers from 2018-20. During that time, the former fifth-round pick tallied 158 1/3 innings of 3.92 ERA with continually improving control and ground-ball rates. Last year’s 15.7 percent strikeout rate in 21 1/3 frames was a career-low, but Farmer’s 5.6 percent walk rate and 52.2 percent grounder rate both represented career-bests. His 93.9 mph average heater in 2021 is down from its 95.1 mph peak in 2019 but also an improvement over last summer’s 93.3 mph mark.
On the whole, since Farmer established himself as a staple in the Detroit bullpen four years ago, he’s posted a 4.47 ERA, a 20.8 percent strikeout rate, a 10.7 percent walk rate and a 44.3 percent ground-ball rate. This year’s catastrophic results obviously weigh that performance down, but at his best he’s been a hard-throwing righty who can both miss bats and induce grounders at an above-average clip. Whether that leads to interest from another club can’t be known, but the Tigers will have a week to trade him or try to pass him through outright waivers.
Farmer is out of minor league options, so if another club does acquire him, he’ll need to be placed on the big league roster. He has more than the three years of service time needed to reject an outright assignment even if he goes unclaimed. However, as Woodbery rightly points out, doing so would mean forfeiting the remainder of this year’s $1.85MM salary, as he doesn’t yet have the five years of service required to retain salary in the event of rejecting an outright. That salary might make it tough for Farmer to be claimed on waivers, and if he does pass through, he’ll surely accept the assignment rather than surrender the $1.44MM he’s yet owed through season’s end.
The veteran Ramirez will give the Tigers some depth as a potential long man in the ’pen or perhaps even in the rotation, should a need arise. He spent the 2020 season with the Mets and fared quite well, allowing just a run on eight hits and four walks with nine punchouts in 14 1/3 innings.
Ramirez, 31, has spent time in the big leagues with the Mariners, Rays and Red Sox as well, with his best season coming back in 2015-16 when he gave Tampa Bay a combined 254 innings of 3.76 ERA ball. He struggled in limited samples of work from 2018-19, but Ramirez has pitched in a variety of roles at the MLB level and on the whole carries a 4.31 ERA through 655 Major League frames.