After non-tendering him five days ago, the Diamondbacks have brought back T.J. McFarland on a 1-year deal. The contract is a major league contract, which means he counts towards the team’s 40-man roster, which now stands at 37 players. The team originally picked him up as a minor league free agent in February after the Orioles released him as an out of options player with very little upside in their long term plans. McFarland pitched his way onto the Dbacks roster in May and was on the team for the rest of the season. McFarland spent enough time in the minors that the Dbacks picked up an extra year of control of him (through 2020), coming into 2018 with 3 years and 164 days of service time.
#Dbacks agree to terms with LHP T.J. McFarland on a 1-year contract.— Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) December 6, 2017
In 2017, @66TJMac limited left-handed hitters to a .222 average & a .548 OPS in a career-high 43 appearances. pic.twitter.com/ZV70SCAHdz
I had said this when I listed McFarland as a non-tender candidate:
LHP T.J. McFarland ($1M/Arb 1): McFarland had a decent stretch in the first half of the season where he was an invaluable LHP in the pen before teams started figuring him out. McFarland had favorable platoon splits against LHH with a .233 wOBA against, but .362 against RHH. With the Diamondbacks needing to maximize every dollar they have, McFarland is a potential casualty even though he could be useful as a matchup lefty. With Jared Miller knocking on the door and being potentially a more cost-effective option, McFarland may be shown the door. I do think that the Diamondbacks should try to bring him back on a minor league deal.
McFarland had awful numbers in 2017, although a lot of it came in 2 games against the Cubs and Twins in August where in 3 games allowed 17 of the 42 runs (40%) he gave up over the season. Looking past the awful numbers on the surface there were some interesting splits in McFarland’s numbers that suggested there is some future utility out of him as well, holding LHH to a .211/.256/.292 slashline (.233 wOBA) with a 16/3 K/BB over an 80 batter sample. McFarland struggled mightily against RHH in 2017, which also suggests that they should make his role more specialized in 2018. I don’t think we want to see McFarland have a 1:2 ratio of LHH vs. RHH in terms of batters faced.
Nick Piecoro has numbers on McFarland’s contract:
McFarland gets $850K guaranteed with the chance to make another $350K in bonuses. https://t.co/3R8sqnxy7w— Nick Piecoro (@nickpiecoro) December 6, 2017
In exchange for a lower base salary, the Diamondbacks have added incentives to McFarland’s contract that could pay him more than the $1M he was projected to earn in the arbitration process. By Piecoro’s numbers, the contract has a maximum value of $1.2M, more details should come out on the incentives he has although it could be tied to the number of appearances, innings, and team standing overall. It’s a good deal for both sides as it lowers the risk for the Diamondbacks and gives McFarland a chance to earn even more money.
There is room for the Diamondbacks to incorporate McFarland as a lefty specialist in the bullpen since the team finished 2017 with 3 lefties in the bullpen although none of them were really good match-ups against RHH. In theory McFarland would replace Jorge De La Rosa’s role as a situational lefty whose dominance against LHH and 67.2% ground ball rate would be great for inherited runner situations. I do think the Diamondbacks should look for another impact arm to the bullpen for the late innings to round out the end of the game scenarios. If Lovullo is able to utilize McFarland more towards his strengths (situational lefty vs. middle reliever), I think he will be a solid cog in the bullpen for the Dbacks in 2018.