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2020 Diamondbacks decisions: T.J. McFarland

Should the team exercise the option on McFarland’s services for 2020?

Arizona Diamondbacks v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

As the 2019 season draws to a close, with the World Series under way, the team will have to start making some decisions. Should they look to re-sign some of their impending free agents? What arbitration eligible players deserve to be tendered contracts? But the first order of business is to decide what happens to the players for whom there are team options on their 2020 services. Whenever the World Series ends, starts a five-day “quiet period.” During this time, teams have exclusive negotiating rights with their own free agents, and at the end of it, have to decide whether to pick up options on their players [They also have to decide on qualifying offers for free agents, but that won’t trouble Arizona this year]

As we look at the questions which are about to be answered, the next up is relief pitcher T.J. McFarland. Both sides of his team option are relatively cheap. To retain his services for 2020, the price would be $1.85 million, up from his salary this year of $1.4 million. But if the team would rather cash McFarland out, they can do so with the loose change from the back of Yasmany Tomas’s sofa in Reno, the buy-out price being only $50.000.

McFarland did struggle this year after a career-best 2018, where he gave the team 72 innings at an ERA of 2.00. Significant regression was inevitable, especially with his FIP there being 3.63. But his ERA mote than doubled, going to 4.82 - and his FIP also increased to 4.48, mostly due to a greater home-run rate, McFarland had been very good at suppressing the long-ball the previous two seasons, allowing eight over 126 innings. But this year, he gave up six HR in only 56 innings. That may have been related to a decreare in T.J.’s groundball rate. In 2017 and 2018, he was a low-rent version of Brad Ziegler, with 2.12 groundballs for every flyball; in 2019, that ratio slipped back to 1.57.

The main factor in McFarland’s favor might be that he’s a left-hander. The only other left-handed relievers on the 40-man roster are Andrew Chafin and Robby Scott. The former seems a lock, but the latter had a 4.91 ERA and 5.40 FIP in 2018 (albeit in a single-digit number of innings), and it doesn’t seem the team has much faith in him as a replacement, given that limited workload. Looking in the minors, there didn’t seem to be too many southpaw bullpen prospects around there either. Miguel Aguilar, who just finished playing in the Arizona Fall League, is perhaps the most promising, posting a 2.12 ERA for AA Jackson, after missing the first two months.

Otherwise, if the team wants another left-hander alongside Chafin, it appears to be a case of either going with McFarland or picking someone up from elsewhere, either through trade or the free-agent market. Will the team be able to get such a pitcher for the cost of the $1.85 million option on T.J? Or should they just trust that reliever volatility will work in his favor next year, and he’ll return to being Ziegler Lite?

There’s a poll below, in which you can vote. Of course, it’s very easy to spend someone else’s money. However, you should bear in mind that doing so will limit the flexibility Mike Hazen has to spend elsewhere. Feel free to explain your decision in the comments.


Should the team exercise its option on T.J. McFarland for 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 58%
    Yes ($1.85 million)
    (104 votes)
  • 41%
    No ($50K)
    (74 votes)
178 votes total Vote Now