Mets Sign Kyle Farnsworth
I know, I know — I’m a little late on this big news. My apologies.
The Mets have signed 15-year veteran reliever Kyle Farnsworth to a minor-league contract that includes an invitation to spring training. If the 37-year-old righthander makes the big club out of spring training, he gets $1M guaranteed, and can earn up to another $1.5M in incentives.
Considering what the Mets’ bullpen options, what’s available on the open market, and the low risk / low cost involved, this appears to be a good move. What do the Mets have to lose?
Farnsworth’s approach throughout the majority of his career has been based on velocity: challenging hitters with his 95+ fastball, up in the zone, with the goal of striking out every hitter he faced. And for most of his career, he’s been largely disappointing for someone with such a unique gift to throw fireballs. Oh, he’d strike out 10 or 11 batters per nine innings, but he’d also often give up too many walks, hits, and homeruns for the strikeout rates to matter — kind of like Bobby Parnell‘s first few years in the bigs. Farnsworth would have a good year, bad year, good year, bad year — never quite putting together a string of dominance.
Then in 2011, he completely switched his game from four-seam fastballs and hard sliders to a mix of predominantly sinkers, a substantial amount of sliders, enough four-seamers to keep the batters honest, and a sprinkling of cutters to keep them thinking. The result was a career year, in which he pitched more to contact and converted 25 saves, posting a 2.18 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP. That high didn’t last long — he saved only four games since, posting 4.70 and 5.76 ERAs in ’12 and ’13. In a brief stint in Pittsburgh last year (9 appearances and 8 innings), however, Farnsworth performed fairly well, striking out 9 and allowing one run (a solo homer).
Maybe being out of the NL for a few years and adding more pitches to his repertoire is an advantage that Farnsworth can use for the first few months of the season. There is talk that his velocity has been down, but Fangraphs is reporting only a mild reduction in his four-seamer — 94.5 MPH average last year, as opposed to the 95+ in the past. Though, both his slider lost 3 MPH — which is significant — and his cutter lost 2 MPH, while his sinker also lost a little more than a MPH. Looking briefly at some video, it appears to me that his arm is a bit more behind his lower body than I remember from the past, so his timing his off and he’s putting more pressure on his shoulder. It could very well be that his slider’s velocity was more instrumental in his effectiveness than the explosive fastball, and he’ll continue to struggle in keeping hitters off balance going forward.
Still, there’s little risk here for the Mets — they’ll see by mid-March if his stuff can get hitters out. If it can, the most the Mets will have to pay is $2.5M, and that’s about right if Farnsworth can pitch well enough to find himself into about 45-50 games as a 6th- and 7th-inning situational reliever.
Thoughts? Post them in the comments.