Buck Farmer has been a stabilizing force in the Detroit Tigers bullpen for the last several seasons. His veteran presence and consistent late-inning production will make him a welcome addition to a competitor.
A fifth-round pick in 2013, Buck Farmer breezed through the minors as a starting pitcher on his way to making his debut in September of 2014 but struggled to find any semblance of consistency. Farmer bounced between AAA and the Majors through the 2017 season, when the Detroit Tigers finally made the decision to move him to the bullpen.
Since moving to the bullpen, Farmer has become a mainstay in a late-inning role and has cemented himself as a prime trade candidate this month. He has posted a 3.92 ERA out of the pen and has improved every season since the move.
While he doesn’t possess elite swing and miss stuff, he gets opponents to swing and miss on his changeup over 30 percent of the time. This season, he has thrown the changeup just over 40 percent of the time, allowing his 93 mile per hour fastball to play up a bit.
Possibly most importantly, Farmer is on a very team-friendly contract. He is making just over one million dollars this year and is arbitration-eligible this summer before hitting free agency in 2023. With all the uncertainty related to the business side of baseball this year, Farmer’s contract will help his value, as will his extra year of team control beyond this year.
Finding a Match
Reliable late-inning bullpen options like Farmer are always coveted around the league. The need for bullpen help will be even greater in the short season this season, as the playoffs have been expanded to include 16 teams.
Farmer was reinstated from the injury report Thursday. Barring any lingering injury issues, his services will be in high demand at the deadline.
The Reds shocked the baseball world last offseason, acquiring Trevor Bauer from the Indians and signing Nick Castellanos, among other moves geared toward winning this year. So far this season, their bullpen has clearly been the weak link, producing an ERA of 6.00 across 72 innings. Closer Raisel Iglesias has been shaky, especially in non-save situations. Farmer would allow them to replace Michael Lorenzen, who has struggled to keep the ball in the yard, in a high-leverage role.
The Phillies’ bullpen has been downright brutal to start the year, getting torched for a league-worst 8.11 ERA over 61 innings. Admittedly, they have been faced with some bad luck, suffering from a BABIP of .411, but they have struggled to replace injured bullpen ace Seranthony Dominguez nonetheless.
The Rockies have been one of baseball’s surprises after getting out to hot start. Journeyman Daniel Bard has a top-tier comeback story, but he hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2013. Meanwhile, closer Wade Davis is on his last leg and talented youngsters Yency Almonte and Carlos Estevez remain unproven.
It seems as though Craig Kimbrel may have turned the corner after a horrendous start to the season. That being said, the bullpen as a whole has struggled with the free pass, giving up 5.26 free passes per nine innings. Farmer would help fix that issue immediately.
Relief pitchers that are as consistent as Farmer and have a year-and-a-half of team control are not traded very often unless they are high-profile closers. There are a few comparable trades we can look back on over the last few years that may give us an indication of the type of return we can expect on a potential Farmer trade.
Tim Hill (2020)
Prior to the 2020 season, the Royals sent lefty reliever Tim Hill to the Padres for outfielder Franchy Cordero and pitcher Ronald Bolaños. Despite being relatively unknown to casual fans, Hill had been a solid bullpen piece for the Royals over the previous two seasons. His strikeout rate and ERA in those two campaigns were remarkably similar to the numbers Farmer has produced over the last two years. The Padres were likely drawn to his three years of team control remaining before hitting free agency in 2024.
Cordero played parts of three seasons with the Padres, slashing .240/.306/.431. He has been significantly hampered by injuries, though his power potential and ability to play center field remain intriguing tools. Bolaños, the Padres thirteenth ranked prospect at the time according to Baseball America, has intriguing upside as well. He has flashed a upper 90s with his fastball and should at least be a high-leverage reliever if he fails to develop as a starter.
Sergio Romo (2019)
At the trade deadline in 2019, the Marlins shipped veteran righty Sergio Romo to the Twins for first-base prospect Lewin Diaz. Romo was 36 at the time of the trade, far older than Buck Farmer, but his experience in high-leverage postseason innings was appealing to the Twins.
Diaz ranked as the Twins’ tenth-best prospect at the time of the trade. He has a promising blend of bat skills and raw power that the Marlins hope can translate to game power down the line. He recently debuted with the team but is still waiting for his shot at a full-time role.
Adam Warren (2018)
In 2018, the Yankees traded veteran reliever Adam Warren to the Mariners for 1.25 million dollars in International bonus money. Warren was a strong contributor in the Yankees bullpen but became expendable when they invested in more high-profile back-end options like Adam Ottavino.
Warren is a good match for Farmer in terms of his profile and peripheral statistics, though he was on the last year of his contract at the time of the trade. The Yankees ended up accumulating over three million dollars in International bonus money at the deadline, which they pooled together to help pay for teenage phenom Jasson Dominguez the following July.
Is it worth it?
The Tigers have a tough decision to make in regards to the future of Buck Farmer. After the recent promotions of Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Isaac Paredes, it is clear that the Tigers are no longer actively trying to lose games. Farmer has been the most consistent member of their bullpen for a while now, and giving him up would undoubtedly leave the unit on shaky ground.
If the Tigers do decide to trade Farmer, it is imperative that they squeeze more value out of the market than they were able to do the past few years with Castellanos, Kinsler, and others. Look for them to acquire a developmental bat that they can use to fill one of the impending lineup holes moving forward.