After getting touched up by the Tampa Bay Rays in his first start of the year on Monday night, the Atlanta Braves designated 2018 All-Star pitcher Mike Foltynewicz for assignment. Could he be an option for the Detroit Tigers whilst they wait for the young arms?
With every Detroit Tigers fan on the planet waiting patiently for the service time restrictions to lift so they can hopefully get a look at the likes of Casey Mize, Matt Manning, and Tarik Skubal in the 2020 season, a chance to improve the pitching rotation from outside of the organization has surprisingly presented itself.
The Atlanta Braves designated 28-year old Mike Foltynewicz for assignment just one start into the 2020 season after the Tampa Bay Rays chased him from the game after just 3.1 innings. He gave up six earned runs on four hits, four walks, and was taken deep three times. He struck out just three batters & struggled to locate both his fastball and off-speed pitches all night long. A tough night at the office after an offseason in the middle of a pandemic and a makeshift second spring training camp surely entitles a veteran pitcher like Folty a second chance at a first impression? Not according to the Braves.
Whilst the Braves surely hope to have him pass through to the Minors, or the travel squad, or whatever they are calling it these days. There is an opportunity for a team like the Tigers to work out a deal and try and get him back to his old self. He is making just $6.25M in 2020 and is arbitration-eligible again in 2021 – pretty cheap for a guy once considered a potential front line starter.
You see it all the time in baseball, right? The Nationals revived Anibal Sanchez from the brink after he struggled for nearly 18 months as a Tiger. The Twins are currently starting Homer Bailey successfully after he put up an ERA over 6 in his last 3 seasons with the Cincinnati Reds. Sometimes guys just need a change of scene or a new challenge to get them back to their best. So could Foltynewicz find similar success with the Tigers should they decide to work out a trade for the Braves?
One thing is for sure, Folty has the stuff, right? He finished the 2018 season 8th in the NL Cy Young vote. A season in which he was an All-Star, posting a 2.85 ERA and striking out 27.2% of all batters faced whilst accumulating 3.8 WAR, which ranked 20th among starting pitchers. Just last year he started game 5 of the 2019 NLDS against the Cardinals…where he recorded just one out and allowed seven earned runs.
And that’s kind of the issue here. He doesn’t have the stuff. At least not anymore. He threw 14 four-seam fastballs on Monday night against the Rays, topping out at 92.9 mph, a notable dip in velocity considering 85% of his four-seam fastballs thrown in 2019 were above that mark. He averaged 89.3 MPH on the fastball, a 5 MPH decrease from his average fastball last season, and a 7 MPH decrease from what it was in 2018. His breaking pitches lacked bite and images shared on social media show what appears to be a drastic weight loss, fuelling rumors that he might not be healthy.
With all of this taken into consideration, could a team take a low risk, high reward move, and get Mike Foltynewicz back to his best? probably. Should that team be the Tigers, who have struggled through the decline of Anibal Sanchez & Jordan Zimmermann over the last few seasons be that team? no.
The Tigers do need help in the starting pitching department. But with Daniel Norris working his way back from his complications with COVID-19 and the young guys waiting in the wings, I’m pretty comfortable letting Folty work through his issues on another team.