According to a source, late last night the Rays and Kyle Farnsworth reached an agreement on a one-year contract.
To this point, we've been unable to confirm this report through other channels - though we're still working on it - so we'd appreciate it if others would verify this information before reporting it as gospel. At the same time, I feel confident in our source - confident enough to report this news as is.
Farnsworth is a reliever that fits the Rays' mold well: he's a fastball / slider pitcher that generates lots of strikeouts, induces an average number of groundballs, and appears to be undervalued by most teams. His peripheral statistics compare well with Jon Rauch, yet Rauch is seen as a hot commodity on the market while Farnsworth has slipped below the radar.
In the past, Farnsworth's main issue has been his control and propensity to allow homeruns, both issues plaguing him during his time with the Yankees in 2006-2008. Over the last two seasons, though, Farnsworth has improved in both these areas, reducing his walk rate to around 3.0 BB/9 and reducing his homerun percentage (HR/PA) from 6% to 2%. Both of these changes resulted in Farnsworth producing one of this best seasons in 2010, posting a 3.34 ERA and a 3.06 FIP in 64 innings pitched.
If these improvements are for real, Farnsworth would be quite the bargain for the Rays and would provide them with a power arm at the back of the bullpen. The Rays have been successful in the past in turning wild, hard-throwing relievers into productive bullpen members (like Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit), so it may be that they feel they can help Farnsworth stay effective.
At the very least, Farnsworth is a cheap, undervalued reliever that has the potential for some high upside at the back of the Rays' bullpen. He is a risk, but so are all relief pitchers and Andrew Friedman's team has proven very good at evaluating talent over the past few years. Going forward, the Rays may still targeting one more reliever, but overall the 2011 bullpen is nearly complete.
Update: It appears that this report has now been confirmed. From Buster Olney:
Heard this: Kyle Farnsworth has a one-year agreement with the Rays.
Farnsworth's deal is 1-yr, $3.25 m., with option; could be worth $6 million over 2 yrs.