ESPN’s Buster Olney is reporting that the New York Yankees have filled their vacant catcher’s spot by trading reliever Kyle Farnsworth to the Detroit Tigers for Pudge Rodriguez.
It’s fairly obvious why the Yankees would do this. Without the injured Jorge Posada for the rest of the season, the team would have been relying on Jose Molina to get way too many at-bats between now and October. Molina has an OPS of .586 and a negative offensive Win Share of -1.4 so far in 2008 and that just won’t do for anyone, let alone the vaunted Yankees.
Pudge is having a decent bounce back year after posting a horrid .294 OBP last season. While he won’t match the offensive output that a healthy Posada can achieve, the new Yank is a defensive upgrade and can still hold his own at the plate.
But my initial reaction was why Detroit would do this. Upon a bit more reflection, I’m thinking that this makes some sense. Make no mistake, the Tigers are not throwing in the towel and this is not a salary dump. GM Dave Dombrowski loves a good bullpen power arm, and with the uncertainty surrounding the health of flamethrowers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, coupled with the ineffectiveness of Todd Jones, Dombrowski pulled the trigger to bolster their troubled pen.
Farnsworth’s fastball regularly clocks in around 95-96 mph, and he also has a slider that he uses when he’s ahead of the count. His main problem this year has been the long ball, giving up 11 in just over 44 innings. Ouch. When it first opened in 2000, Comerica Park was known as a hard place to hit homeruns, but this has actually reversed itself over the past couple seasons. So we’ll have to see if Farnsworth will have better luck avoiding the dinger in Detroit. This does not, however, solve their problem of relying heavily on closer Todd Jones. The righty Farnsworth will probably take the innings that used to be thrown by Rodney, who sports a 5.40 ERA.
At this point this is merely speculation, but I’m assuming that Brandon Inge is going to take over regular catching duties for the Tigers unless there’s another trade up Detroit’s sleeve within the next day. Inge is a far better defensive player at third base than he is behind the plate, but he is serviceable. Offensively, he’s not that much worse than Pudge although he does strikeout a ton. So the Tigers upgrade their bullpen, downgrade their backstop defense, and take a small step back offensively.
And who’s going to fill the set-up role that Farnsworth is vacating in the Bronx? Good question. Unless they call up a lefty from Scranton, I don’t think it’s going to be Damaso Marte who was acquired along with Xavier Nady just a few days ago because he’s currently the only southpaw in the Yankees pen. Perhaps it will be Edwar Ramirez or Jose Veras, both of whom have become big parts of the relief corps in 2008 despite their relative lack of experience at the big league level.
Both Farnsworth and Rodriguez are free agents at the end of the season as well, so although the Yankees take on the bigger contract (prorated), it’s nearly a wash financially considering the Yankees’ resources.
I like this deal more from the NY perspective than I do Detroit’s, but at least it’s something that makes sense for the Tigers as well.
Note: It’s been brought to my attention by a little thing called “research” that techincially, Jones was deposed as closer by Rodney a few days ago. This doesn’t affect the evaluation or anything, but just in case someone wants to cause an uproar over the error, I’m doing it for you.