In an unexpected move prior to the official start to the Winter Meetings, Al Avila signed 31-year-old Mike Pelfrey to the Detroit Tigers. Pelfrey is expected to fill the number four spot in the rotation between Anibal Sanchez and Daniel Norris. While the signing of a second new starting pitcher was not much of a surprise, the fact that Avila picked Pelfrey was an unexpected decision.
Jun 18, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Mike Pelfrey (37) walks back to the dugout before the game against the St Louis Cardinals at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Many were expecting the Tigers to sign a left-handed pitcher to complement the right-handed dominant rotation. Others were expecting to see Avila bring back Doug Fister to correct Dave Dombrowski’s mistake in 2014. Pelfrey pitched with the New York Mets between 2009-2012. After his Tommy John surgery in 2012, he was signed to the Minnesota Twins, where he has played full seasons in 2013 and 2015. He spent most of 2014 in the disabled list for several injuries.
His statistics are not overly impressive. His career ERA is 4.52 and his WHIP is 1.482. He is recognized as a ground-ball pitcher and has played for teams that had relatively weak defenses, which did not help his numbers. Now that he will be joining the Tigers and the lights-out duo of Jose Iglesias and Ian Kinsler, his ERA and WHIP should decrease.
Pelfrey does not usually reach fastball speeds like Justin Verlander does. His average fastball speed was 93 mph in 2015. His favorite secondary pitch is the slider, which averages around 84 mph. He tends to go to the slider about 10 percent of the time.
In his last two seasons with the Twins, he earned $5.5 each year with incentives for innings pitched. Now, with the Tigers, he will earn $8 million for two years. No incentives have been announced. He will be expected to induce ground balls that will be easy outs so he can breeze through innings. The Tigers had enough of young arms in 2015, so they added the veteran to the rotation for stability. Most expect that the signing will be confirmed Saturday or Sunday after Pelfrey’s physical.
Even though fans are predicting that Daniel Norris will fill the fifth spot in the rotation, it could be filled by Matt Boyd, Shane Greene, Kyle Lobstein, Michael Fulmer, or Buck Farmer. The starter will not be announced until spring training unless Avila does something with his young pitchers before then.