Rumors floated around the past couple of weeks that the Mets were going to try to sign reliever Fernando Rodney. For some, this was disheartening because Rodney was going to be expensive considering his record. Rodney did sign a contract, but not with the Mets, and he was expensive — a two-year, $14 million deal with the Seattle Mariners. However, the Mets did not stand idle when it came to signing a reliever, as they signed RHP Kyle Farnsworth to a minor-league deal.
Farnsworth is obviously not as exciting as Rodney. This was evident in that one player was signing a big time contract, while the other was signing a contract that cordially invites him to re-establish himself at the big-kids table. Despite that Farnsworth is a low-level signing, it’s a great buy-low signing.
Farnsworth’s season in 2013 was not pretty. He had a ERA/FIP/xFIP line of 4.70/4.14/3.73, and he also compiled a WAR of -0.2. However, his pitching line shows some reason for optimism. His ERA was higher than his FIP, which indicates that he will probably regress back to the mean. The only problem is that his FIP — although lower than his ERA — wasn’t very good either.
The other thing that presents some hope for Farnsworth is his xFIP of 3.73. Many teams have bought into the idea of betting on xFIP when it comes to evaluating pitchers. Farnsworth’s former team, the Pirates, has had success this with guys like Mark Melancon. In 2012, Melancon had an ERA of 6.20 and an xFIP of 3.45. In 2013, Melancon was one of the best relievers in the game, with an ERA/FIP/xFIP line of 1.39/1.64/2.05. Melancon provides hope for ERA/xFIP differentials.
When there’s hope, there’s also reality. While Farnsworth’s velocity on his fastball was higher in 2013 than it was in 2012, all his other pitches suffered at least a two MPH drop in velocity. Unless your name is Mariano Rivera, declining velocity for a reliever is an indication that bad things are coming.
Then again, Farnsworth only pitched 38 innings, and was dealing with some elbow issues during all of last year. It could be a case where Farnsworth just needs the offseason to get his elbow feeling healthy again.
Overall, this looks like a signing with some upside. Farnsworth’s numbers aren’t pretty, but that’s what makes it a buy-low signing. Should we expect Farnsworth to be the most dominant reliever in the game? No. However, if the Mets can get 50-60 quality innings out of him, then we can consider this signing a success. Hopefully, Farnsworth can carry on the tradition of success that Sandy Alderson has had with signing other players to minor-league deals.