When the Seattle Mariners traded Ichiro Suzuki to the Yankees in July of 2012, it appeared to primarily be a salary dump. But in the racket caused by the trade a future hall of famer in the twilight of his career, one of the key returns of the transaction was overshadowed: Danny Farquhar.
The 26-year-old righty was one two players (D.J. Mitchell is the other) brought over in the swap, and in him the M’s have found themselves a bargain bin gem.
Though he pitched sparingly in 2012, Farquhar saw considerable action in 2013, and on Aug. 2 was installed as the M’s closer after the incumbent, Tom Wilhelmsen, nearly pitched his way back to a bar-tending job.
Farquhar’s promotion was initially perplexing. Other relievers in the pen — specifically Oliver Perez— had already been used in save situations prior to Wilhelmsen’s demotion, and Farquhar boasted pedestrian statistics up until that point. On Aug. 3, the day he notched his first save, Farquhar had a 5.24 ERA in 33 innings of work (which probably would have qualified him for a spot in the M’s starting rotation).
Despite not being the logical choice to succeed Wilhelmsen as the team’s closer, Farquhar exceeded all expectations. Over the last two months of the season he recorded 16 saves in 24 games and struck out 29 batters in 22.2 innings; during that stretch he had an ERA of 2.38, and gave up zero homers.
While at the end of the season some of his statistics didn’t mirror what is generally considered to be the measure of an elite closer (low ERA and WHIP), it’s Farquhar’s other stats that make the M’s look shrewd for promoting him.
Farquhar had a ridiculous strikeout rate of 12.8 per nine innings (for comparison Mariano Rivera has career K/9 rate of 8.2) and only gave up two homers in 55.2 innings. Those are both outrageously good numbers, and both are stats that expose the quality of a closer.
Though he definitely appears to have the chops, the righty does walk a fair amount of batters and does give up plenty of hits. But these are both things he can can rein in, and it’s his other abilities that could push him to be elite.
Teams want a player on the mound in the ninth that can send a batter back to the dugout without putting a ball in play and one who can also keep the ball in the park when they do.
Unfortunately for the M’s, Wilhelmsen, despite being a likable guy off the mound, couldn’t accomplish either of the aforementioned stats this past season, and though Oliver Perez pitched well in 2013, he was only under contract for one season and was more useful in long-relief.
The M’s made the right decision this season when they began giving Farquhar the ball in the ninth. His stuff is nasty and appears to handle the pressure of closing out games. But the best thing about him has nothing to do with his on-field ability: the team has him under contract until 2019, and he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016.
If Farquhar can continue striking out batters at a phenomenal rate and depriving fans in the outfield bleachers of leather bound souvenirs, the M’s will essentially be paying him next to nothing to provide a service that some teams throw millions of dollars at.
Depending on how he pitches in 2014 and beyond, the M’s will certainly have to pay him more for his services — but Farquhar could then become valuable trade bait, as the organization has other relievers with the acumen to be closers (Carter Capps or Logan Bawcom).
But in the end, after his successful closer audition in 2013, it appears that going into 2014 Farquhar should and will have first dibs on the ninth inning. Hopefully for M’s fans he can keep shutting the door, and hopefully the team will give him more chances to do so.