For years now, the Detroit Tigers brass has made it clear that the long and painful rebuild that we fans have had to endure for approximately five years now was centered on developing starting pitching, and we have seen this focus pay dividends with the blossoming of Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning.
However, the one pitcher that has drawn massive questions and uncertainty is Alex Faedo, who was the Tigers 1st round pick out of the University of Florida back in 2017.
Faedo had a dominant college career, posting a total record of 28-6, with a 2.80 ERA, and a dominant 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings during his three years at Florida according to Baseball-Reference. These numbers illustrate why the Tigers enthusiastically selected him with the 18th overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft, but since then, things have not gone smoothly for both Faedo and the Tigers.
Although posting decent numbers in his last full season at Double-A Erie with a 3.90 ERA and 10.5 strikeouts per 9 over 115.1 innings pitched, Faedo has not pitched in a meaningful game since 2019 due to suffering a forearm strain at the alternate site in 2020 which led to Tommy John Surgery. The lack of time on the mound for Faedo has led to questions and debate about whether he has a long-term future with the Detroit Tigers, and what that future may entail going forward.
The Detroit Tigers have a very interesting decision to make regarding Alex Faedo
In my opinion, if Faedo is to stay in the Tigers organization and contribute at the Major League level it will be in a bullpen role. Beyond the 2022 season, the Tigers should be reasonably set in regards to their rotation as Spencer Turnbull is set to return from Tommy John Surgery recovery in 2023, which will hopefully round out the rotation with Mize, Manning, and Skubal along with the newly acquired Eduardo Rodriguez. If these five pitchers remain healthy and productive, it will be extremely difficult for Faedo to break into the rotation and his durability issues that have arisen due to his myriad of injuries since joining the Tigers organization will also be a major obstacle in earning a place in the rotation.
I could envision Faedo in a similar role that Michael Fulmer is in currently with the Tigers, as the 2016 Rookie of the Year winner has shifted into a back-end bullpen role in which he has thrived during this past 2021 season. I understand that Faedo and Fulmer are completely different pitchers in terms of pitching makeup and arsenal and Faedo is probably not best suited for a back-end role like Fulmer, but having three plus pitches including his fastball, changeup, and slider could allow him to thrive in a middle relief role that serves as a bridge between the starting pitcher and back-end guys. Faedo’s background as a starter will allow him to eat multiple innings if needed without the strain of throwing 90+ pitches every fifth day, and as we have seen throughout the playoffs in recent years, having a formidable stable of relief pitchers in all roles is essential for success. Therefore, if Alex Faedo has a long-term future with the Detroit Tigers, it will be beyond the left-field fences at Comerica Park.
Now there is a major possibility that the Tigers do not see Faedo as part of their long-term plans and this is where I believe a possible trade scenario could come into play. Much has been made this offseason about the current state of the Tigers outfield and I am of the opinion that another established outfielder is needed for the Tigers to compete for a playoff spot and the division.
Robbie Grossman is the only established outfielder on the team and he is a free agent after the 2022 season, Akil Baddoo exceeded all expectations in his rookie season but there are still major concerns and question marks surrounding him, including his low walk rate and outfield defense. In addition, I completely understand and support the hype around top prospect Riley Greene, but without playing an inning in the Majors yet, I believe it is unfair to categorize him as an established big-league outfielder. Furthermore, the likes of Derek Hill and Victor Reyes are good depth pieces for the Tigers but I see them both as fourth outfielders due to their inconsistent offensive production and inability to stay on the field on a regular basis.
Bringing in another established outfielder would immediately provide a positive impact to the Tigers, and packaging Alex Faedo in a deal could help get that done. It is sometimes necessary for teams to make bold moves in order to bring their team to the next level, and trading a former first-round pick may just provide the extra sauce needed for the Tigers to take the next step.
Although the options I have presented are both intriguing, it is still disappointing to see where Alex Faedo has ended up after all the hype surrounding him after he was drafted by the Tigers. I wish instead of mulling over his future, we would be watching him mow down hitters at Comerica Park, but injuries are a part of the game and it is a sign of a good team to adapt to these situations. Let’s see if the Tigers can do the same.