Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Apparently, Bullpen Help > All Star Catcher

Kyle Farnsworth heads to the Tigers, and the Yankees get Ivan Rodriguez. In my gut, as a Tiger fan, it makes me sad. Pudge and I had some good conversations together. At least, I think we did, because his accent is quite thick. But before we explore today's deal, let's quickly hop into the Bench Coach's Way Back Machine and do a quick recap of Kyle's career.

2003: After Kyle (with the Cubs) hit the Red's Paul Wilson with a pitch, Paul decided that he would march on the 6' 4", 240lb former football player. Wrong move, Paul. Kyle went into preemptive strike mode, charged Wilson, and in the words of announcer Steve Stone, "rackey tacked" him and gave is face the speed-bag treatment. He was suspended for only three games, because MLB didn't want Farnsworth hunting them each down with a mace and smashing their faces in.
2004: Kyle has more fun in Chicago. That is, if your definition of fun is a series of lights-out trips to the mound, with some intermittent aviation-fueled arson mixed in, and some kicking-floor-fan-induced trips to the DL. Oh yeah, and when Kyle didn't hit 100mph on the gun, Cubs Fan booed him. True story.
2005: Kyle is traded to the Tigers, and promptly resumes his role as Fist Fight Upstager. As the Royals and Tigers slugged it out on the field, Kyle comes running -- all the way from the bullpen -- and, after a little baiting by Runelvys Hernandez, lays out Jeremy Affeldt, who is "not a twerp." Hard. Again, the announcers say it best:
Rod Allen: "You knew when Big Boy got there it was gonna get on!"
Watch the video at 2:50, and 4:00 to see the take-down. After this, the Tigers trade Farnsworth to the Braves at the deadline for Roman Colon and Zach Miner. Farnsworth leaves the Braves at the end of the season for the Yankees.

Now, here we are, making another trade for Kyle Farnsworth. Let's look at the motivation here. Know that Pudge is in the final year of a contract. As you may recall, he signed with the Tigers in 2004 after winning the World Series with Florida in 2003. The Tigers were the worst team in the league in 2003, and Pudge started them on their run back, so he's always been a fan favorite here. Whatever way you cut this, Tiger Fan isn't happy. And, remember that Posada is out for the year with the Yankees, so they do need a catcher. 

The likely scenario is that the Tigers knew Pudge wouldn't stay with what they were willing to pay him. Obviously, they want to get something for the guy before he leaves, but even this is questionable. In my opinion, the Tigers are still contending. Does Farnsworth bring more to the team, athletically, than Pudge? It's probably even there. But he definitely doesn't lead the team or the pitching staff in the same way Pudge does. Farnsworth helps in the bullpen, as we will see later. He certainly brings a semi-consistent arm to the table.

What about all the bad will you create with Tiger Fan? 70% of the crowd at night games hadn't been to downtown Detroit before 2006. And for many, Pudge is "their Tiger." Translation? Bandwagon Tiger Fan is pissed. Lifelong Tiger Fan probably knows that it's better than getting nothing, but he is still confused -- why Farnsworth? The Tigers probably could've gotten more with one day left before deadline. Even GM Dave Dombrowski said the Tigers didn't want to trade Pudge. He also had no idea where to slot Farnsworth in the bullpen, leaving that decision up to Leyland. So you traded a great guy who you didn't want to trade for someone you aren't sure what you're going to do with.

Roster Shifts: You've got Zumaya in the 8th, and Rodney in the 9th. You've also got Seay hiding out there with his 2.73 ERA, (surprise!) And, you have to find a place for Lopez and his sub-3.00 ERA. Where does Farnsworth fit in? Hopefully this will allow Leyland to STOP USING DOLSI AND FOSSUM, PLEASE. So, this gives the Tigers an outstanding bullpen in a league that is, quite frankly, starved for decent bullpen pitching. It almost makes you wonder, with three sub-3.00 ERA guys in Lopez, Zumaya, and Seay, plus Rodney, why do we even need Farnsworth? At least if Rodney doesn't prove to be consistent as a closer -- and I bet he will be -- Leyland can brush off Dusty Baker's bullpen by committee mode, and someone will do the job. If not, go into bullpen by situation mode. If you're confused about the difference, just ask Dusty. Really, ask him, because it's hilarious.

As for the infield, I don't think this makes much of an impact, other than forcing the .200 hitting Inge to play every... single... day. And Dombrowski has confirmed that Inge will now be the every day catcher. The Tigers certainly take a huge hit here.

So, is it worth losing Pudge for Farnsworth? Pudge was a fan favorite, handled the pitchers well, hit at .300, is still a great defensive catcher, and was apparently a positive force on the team overall. By getting Farnsworth, we get a guy who comes in with the 4th highest ERA in the pen and no given purpose. We have to watch Inge strike out with his big pool stick swings every day. The Yankees certainly came out ahead on this one, as they went from backup catcher to prime catcher. As for the pitching, you can leave that alone -- Brian Cashman can't handle a bullpen and nothing I say here will change that. From the Tiger's perspective, I have to give this trade a questionable ranking.

Kyle Farnsworth tackles Jeremy Affeldt - July 17, 2005
Kerry Wood and Dusty Baker - May 1, 2005