The Tigers had claimed that they were content with the status of their bullpen, that the addition of Troy Percival had strengthened the unit to the point that they were confident that it could handle the work-load.
But just two days after signing Magglio Ordonez to the biggest contract in Tigers' free agent history, the team made a trade to upgrade the bullpen, acquiring Kyle Farnsworth from the Chicago Cubs along with a player to be named later in exchange for three Tiger prospects.
No word yet on who the player to be named later will be, but it's expected to be a lower level minor leaguer.
In 72 appearances last season, Farnsworth was 4-5 with a 4.72 ERA. He also got 18 holds, but was 0-for-4 in save opportunities.
Farnsworth for some time now has been regarded as a bit of an enigma with the Cubs – displaying occasional flashes of brilliance (and even doing so for extended stretches), but never using his high-90's fastball to truly break out as one of the top relievers in baseball. Farnsworth's best ERA came in 2001, when he carried a 2.74 line in 82 innings. But he's had bad years as well, including a 7.33 ERA the year after in 2002.
The Tigers hope is that Farnsworth will straighten out his problems and fill an important middle relief role in the Tigers bullpen. As of now, closer Troy Percival has the 9th, and former closer Ugueth Urbina will pitch as the setup man. Farnsworth will likely team with Jamie Walker to form the team's two top middle relievers, with open competition from a large group of youngsters for the final middle relief role.
As for the group the team gave up – all three carry potential.
Roberto Novoa made a pair of appearances for the Tigers last season after being acquired the season before from the Pirates as part of the deal for Randall Simon. For the Tigers, Novoa went 1-1 with a 5.57 ERA in 16 appearances, but from all indications looked much calmer in his second call-up, and likely would have had an inside track to a relief job for the team.
Scott Moore was the Tigers first round pick in the 2002 draft, but had yet to really come of age for the team, as he had struggled in his first two full season's of professional baseball. In 2004, playing for the high-A Lakeland Tigers, Moore hit .223 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI. Moore was patient at the plate (with an OBP almost 100 points higher than his average), but still struggled making consistent contact, as well as adjusting defensively to the hot corner.
Outfielder Bo Flowers finally started to show signs that he was going to be able to turn his athletic abilities into baseball skills in 2004 – hitting .280 for short season-A Oneonta, before a late call-up for the postseason run with the low-A West Michigan Whitecaps. A physical specimen, Flowers also started to see his power come around, with a .407 slugging percentage. He made some advances, but he still has a long ways to go.
For the Tigers, this deal really comes down to Farnsworth and the chances that he finally figures things out for the team. If he can step in and be a reliable middle reliever that the team can count on, it was a good move, especially if the offense holds up on its end of the bargain, potentially giving the team a chance at competing. But if he struggles with the same inconsistencies that plagued him in Chicago, this trade could turn out to blow up in the Tigers' collective faces, as they'd be giving up a trio of prospects, all for a player that gave the team no more than what some of the other youngsters like Fernando Rodney or Franklyn German could have.
As most trades go, only time will tell.