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Cincinnati Reds bring back Buck Farmer on a guaranteed 1-year deal

Reunion season is upon us!

Cincinnati Reds v Cleveland Guardians Photo by George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds are in agreement with free agent reliever Buck Farmer on a 1-year contract that’s expected to earn him some $2.25 million for the 2024 season. The Reds announced the move on Twitter on Thursday morning, with MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon providing context with the salary expectations.

432 Major League Baseball players made $2.25 million or more during the 2023 season, and that’s probably just about what Buck Farmer deserves as a veteran big leaguer, so long as your expectations for him are in check. Just because the Reds spent actual money on him shouldn’t vault him up the depth chart, in other words - slotting him in as a dependable, mid-bullpen guy who’ll get some 7th inning work routinely is precisely what he should get given how normal, good bullpens set themselves up. Asking more of him just because he’s actually a free agent signing, though, would be a bit of a stretch.

Farmer’s FIP rose from a tidy 3.03 mark in 2022 to a nearly unsightly 4.62 mark in 2023 as his IP totals jumped from just 47.0 to 75.0. He reduced his walk rate (4.8 per 9 IP to just 3.5), but that came with a reduction in his strikeout rate (10.3 to 8.9) and a rise in his HR/9 (0.4 to 1.3). His average fastball velocity also declined from 2022 (94.8) to 2023 (94.0) while his groundball rate (43.7% in 2022) dipped all the way down to 33.3% (2023).

The nature of big league relievers is that each year is, more often than not, completely unrelated to the previous one - or the next one, we hope in this case. Farmer saw a major dip in production, velocity, and K/9 during his stints with the Detroit Tigers prior to landing with the Reds for 2022, for instance, and he certainly saw a rebound with them. Perhaps there’s something underlying they know that we don’t about a nagging injury, release point problem, etc. that they think Farmer can ably work through this winter, and that he’ll be much closer to the bounce-back guy they got off the heap for 2022 than he was down the stretch last year.

(For the record, over his final 34 appearances of the 2023 season he posted an ugly 5.94 ERA, 5.38 FIP, and allowed 7 HR in just 36.1 IP.)

Farmer reached free agency after the end of the 2023 season after earning $1.75 million in his final year of arbitration eligibility. We welcome The Combine back to the fold!