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Farmer among 5 Tigers tendered contracts

December 2, 2019

DETROIT -- Buck Farmer has the longest Tigers tenure of any current Detroit pitcher, and he stands as the longest-tenured player not named Miguel Cabrera. Let that sink in for a second. “It’s still kind of strange to me,” the right-handed reliever said at season’s end. “You see a bunch

DETROIT -- Buck Farmer has the longest Tigers tenure of any current Detroit pitcher, and he stands as the longest-tenured player not named Miguel Cabrera. Let that sink in for a second.

“It’s still kind of strange to me,” the right-handed reliever said at season’s end. “You see a bunch of new guys come in year after year, new faces, that kind of sets in a little bit: Wow, I’ve been here for a long time.”

Detroit will have another crop of new faces in its bullpen after a roster purge this fall, but barring a change, Farmer will remain. He was one of handful of arbitration-eligible Tigers to be tendered contracts Monday ahead of the 8 p.m. deadline, joining Matthew Boyd, Michael Fulmer, JaCoby Jones and Daniel Norris.

As expected, the Tigers non-tendered no one Monday, having done most of their moves ahead of time. Many of the cuts came from the bullpen. Lefties Blaine Hardy and Daniel Stumpf were dropped from the roster at the start the offseason. Right-handed swingman Drew VerHagen was a non-tender candidate before signing with Japan’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters a week ago.

Farmer, eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, was at no such risk. Not only is he coming off his best season to date, he’s still seen as a pitcher with upside as he slides into a potential setup role behind closer Joe Jiménez in the rebuilt Tigers bullpen.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster going into the offseason,” Farmer said. “Even last year or the year before that, it was like, ‘I want to be here next year. Do they see me as a mainstay?’ Obviously it’s not going to change how I prepare in the offseason, but I guess it’s easier and more fulfilling. …

“[I've] still gotta compete for a job next year, obviously. It’s not like I’m going to come into spring and just say, ‘All right, this position’s mine.’ There’s still other guys that are going to be [in camp] in the spring, new guys in spring. It’s still going to be a battle, and there’s guys that are going to try to take any job possible that they can get. But it’s fulfilling going into the offseason having a decent year.”

Though Farmer has been a Tiger for six seasons, this year marked just his second full season in Detroit after being shuttled back and forth to Triple-A Toledo for four years. He didn’t convert full-time to relief work until 2017, filling a do-everything role that included a two-inning spot start this past season. In many ways, he filled the Alex Wilson role that opened up when the Tigers non-tendered Wilson a year ago.

Once the Tigers traded Shane Greene to Atlanta at the July 31 Trade Deadline and moved Jiménez to closer, Farmer’s role become more focused on the eighth inning. He recorded eight of his 15 holds in August and September for a team that won just 15 games over the final two months.

Farmer took to the role, allowing just 22 hits over 32 1/3 innings with 33 strikeouts in 34 appearances after the All-Star break.

Farmer’s career-high 73 appearances led all Tigers pitchers. He allowed 62 hits over 67 2/3 innings with 24 walks and 73 strikeouts, good for a 9.7 K/9 rate and a 3.04 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The difference, he said, was trusting his pitches to throw more strikes, and being able to fix his mechanics on the fly when he fell out of rhythm.

“I think for the longest time you’d see some guys that get called up and just try to nibble and maybe give some of the guys that step into the box a little bit too much credit,” he said. “You know, this game’s still a game of failure. [If a guy gets a hit] three out of 10 times, a guy’s a Hall of Famer. You’re looking at more two times out of 10, a guy’s going to get a hit; I’ll take those odds any day. Just going up there and trusting my stuff and filling the zone up, that kind of helped me.”

The Tigers are counting on more such progress from Farmer while serving as a veteran mentor as rookies Bryan Garcia and John Schreiber try to find their roles. The irony, of course, is that the more Farmer improves, the more likely he is to join the procession of Tigers relievers who hit the trading block over the last few years in Detroit’s rebuilding effort.

For now, he’s sticking around. And for this year, the Tigers spent the non-tender deadline eyeing the new crop of free agents to see if anyone could fit their offseason shopping list, especially an impact hitter at first base or corner outfield.