There is an interesting social media trend with Atlanta Braves fans. They are interested in all things Spencer Turnbull
After some tough luck, the Atlanta Braves are short on starting pitching. They have continued their trend with taking on aging starting pitchers, but Felix Hernandez ultimately decided to opt out of the 2020 season over concerns on the pandemic. Then, during just his third start of the season, Mike Soroka would tear his Achilles and ultimately be out for the season. They have tried to persevere, but Kyle Wright has pitched to a 5.80 FIP in 2020 and Sean Newcomb was recently optioned due to his own struggles.
The need for starting pitching in Atlanta is evident for the 2020 season and beyond; but how they choose to address the problem remains a mystery. The Braves faithful have voiced their opinion on Twitter, though, and they are in favor of their GM Alex Athopoulos snatching Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull.
Curiosity often kills me, but one of the habits I have developed is looking at reactions whenever a Detroit Tigers player gets any type of national notoriety to get a pulse of what non-fans think of them. These days for pitchers, kudos comes from a highlight post from the famous Pitching Ninja on Twitter. On Sunday, Pitching Ninja highlighted a Spencer Turnbull slider to get a strike out during his start with the Pirates:
The tweet generated 35 retweets as of Monday night, but seven of those retweets came with commentary attached to them. There is an interesting trend among the quotes:
Braves fans clearly have an affection for Turnbull–and it is easy to understand why. Turnbull is in just his second season in the big leagues, giving him another four seasons of control after 2020. His stuff is nasty; a darting and hard fastball, a sweeping slider, and then either a curve ball or change up that he will feature based on feel. Turnbull has had an excellent start to his 2020; pitching to a 2.00 ERA while averaging a strike out per inning.
From a needs perspective, the trade lines up decently well. The Detroit Tigers would be trading from a position of strength. Matthew Boyd has been subpar in 2020 thus far but figures to be a starter for this season and beyond. Likewise, Michael Fulmer and Daniel Norris both have showed Monday night why they deserve consideration for rotation spots in the coming years.
Beyond those three, Casey Mize is all but ready to debut, Matt Manning is close, and Tarik Skubal is right on their tails as well. Pitching is certainly an organizational strength for Detroit; and while the Tigers are not bare on position position prospects, they could certainly use some high end outfielders that are close to the major leagues. I do not know if Atlanta would be willing to part with one of Cristian Pache or Drew Waters, who are their top two prospects according to MLB Pipeline and both who have reached Triple-A, but I have to believe one of them would need to be included in any package.
The main issue with the trade, though, is Detroit–for once–has all the leverage. As much as the Detroit Tigers would be trading from a position of strength, GM Al Avila has stated before the organization can never have enough pitching. For a person who has also said publicly the plan is to start to build up, trading their best starting pitcher would not lend to that strategy; regardless of how close the prospects are to the major leagues.
Because of that leverage, the Tigers can continue with their history of obscene asks in trade. The Tigers have reportedly asked for Carter Kieboom in a Shane Greene trade, Cody Bellinger in an Ian Kinsler Trade, and even Gleyber Torres for Matthew Boyd since Avila has taken over. These asks sound insane because they are; and miraculously, none of these trades happened–at least partially due to the fact that the Tigers were clearly rebuilding and thus had no leverage in discussions.
As their prospects have progressed and there has been noticeable improvement on the major league team, though, Detroit is no longer required to deal anyone; especially controllable players. Keeping Turnbull would allow the club to build a formidable rotation–a prerequisite for any postseason team that has aspirations of a deep run. For Atlanta, an overpay would absolutely be necessary in order to pry Turnbull away.
Beyond the high ask and where the Tigers are competitively, though, the lack of certainty around the season does not make a trade of such magnitude particularly attractive. The league has shown resilience through two outbreaks among their clubs, but in expanded playoff, going for it this year for seven Spencer Turnbull starts feels too risky. The return for Detroit is not likely to be affected much if the trade happens after the season; and likewise, Atlanta will want to have more certainty around the future of the game before parting with any of their highly regarded players.
Though the odds are small, there is a possibility of a trade in the future. The teams have dealt with each other most recently in a trade for closer Shane Greene. Despite the potential match up, I do not blame the Detroit Tigers for asking for the moon and I do not blame the Braves for balking at the idea of giving it to them. For now, though, Detroit should be euphoric and unmotivated to part with such an out-of-nowhere asset that can be a part of competitive teams in the future.