Not only have Detroit Tigers pitchers struggled as a whole from a production standpoint, both in the rotation and bullpen, the team is also fighting a war of attrition with its hurlers, as it’s still struggling for depth amidst a number of crippling injuries.
Everyone knows about the season-ending injuries to starters Micheal Fulmer and Matt Moore, along with the significant absences of Jordan Zimmermann and Tyson Ross, but the impact of their injuries has trickled down to the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers as well.
The Tigers rank 26th in Major League Baseball with a bullpen ERA of 5.17, and that includes the outstanding numbers put up by closer Shane Greene. Some of the explanation for these struggles is that Detroit’s starters aren’t giving the team enough innings, and the bullpen has had immense pressure put on it as a result.
The Detroit Tigers bullpen ranks 16th in baseball with 261 innings pitched, with a number of its members struggling in the process. Arms such as righties Victor Alcantara and Zac Reininger (since demoted to Triple-A) have been forced to stay in the big leagues and soak up innings, instead of going to the minors to improve their games.
Simply put, the Tigers lack of ample starting pitching has taxed a bullpen that was already struggling with depth. If it wasn’t for heroic seasons from Matt Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, who knows where the bullpen and rotation would stand.
Enter Drew Smyly.
Yes, that Drew Smyly. Tigers fans may remember the 30-year-old Smyly, who was drafted by the team in 2010 and debuted in 2012. The once highly regarded pitching prospect had success in Detroit, posting a 3.53 ERA in 280.2 innings pitched,107 games overall and 36 games started.
But it hasn’t been the same since for the lefty Smyly, as he’s struggled with long-term injuries and ineffectiveness since being dealt to the Tampa Bay Rays as part of the David Price trade in July of 2014.
He pitched to the tune of a 3.95 ERA in 49 games started during his three-year tenure with Tampa, and after missing the next two seasons due to injury (Tommy John in 2017 and other arm injuries), he finally regained health and debuted with the Texas Rangers in 2019.
Despite a clean bill of health, Smyly struggled early this season with Texas, posting an 8.42 ERA in 13 games, nine of them starts. His struggles prompted him to be designated for assignment on June 20th.
The Tigers, struggling for depth in the bullpen and starting rotation, would be wise to consider the acquisition of Smyly to an injured pitching corps. Earlier this season, following rumors of a Bartolo Colon signing, I advocated for his acquisition due to the injuries, but the Tigers opted to avoid the fan-favorite Colon.
Smyly would provide the Tigers with some much-needed flexibility, as he’s proven he can pitch in relief or start during his career. He would also bring a level of familiarity, which would make his transition to the team smoother.
Even though Zimmermann has returned, Ross has been moved to the 60-day injured list and concerns still remain surrounding the depth of the Tigers pitching. Taking a flier on Smyly would be a low-risk, high-reward move for a team that certainly has nothing to lose.
And it may be quite necessary, as there have been many times over the past few weeks when I have questioned if the Tigers have enough pitching depth to even make it through the season. Last time I advocated for increased pitching depth, it was to no avail, and things certainly have gotten worse since then.
That’s why I’ll ask the Tigers to do it again, this time in the form of familiar face Drew Smyly.