2016 seems like such a long time ago. The Tigers were just at the end of their run of contention. They still had star players such as Miggy, Verlander, Justin Upton, Nick Castellanos, and Victor Martinez. That was eight years ago. Time just flies, doesn't it?
Here's a blast from the past: Michael Fulmer. He signed a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox today. It's a two-year deal since he won't be able to pitch this offseason after offseason surgery.
Fulmer was one of the bright spots of that 2016 team. Acquired as part of the Yoenis Cespedes trade in 2015, Fulmer came up in late April and dazzled Tigers fans all season long. He even had a Tigers record 33 1/3 inning scoreless streak. He looked like a potential future ace, winning AL Rookie of the Year in 2016 with a 3.06 ERA in 159 innings pitched.
But then, cracks began to show. The injury bug started to bite him in 2017 when a nagging knee injury caused him to miss a few starts. Then came the arm injuries, starting with ulnar nerve transposition surgery that offseason. After struggling a bit in 2018, he had to undergo Tommy John surgery that offseason, and was essentially an opener during the shortened-2020 season.
Things started looking up for him in 2021, when he was fully transitioned to the bullpen. He saw an uptick in his fastball velocity and was even the team's closer at one point, notching 14 saves. He finished that season with a 2.97 ERA and just looked like himself again.
The 2022 season was solid once again, but he was traded to Minnesota at the trade deadline for Sawyer Gipson-Long. He signed the Cubs last offseason and had a 4.42 ERA and a career-high 10.26 K/9 before he started having more forearm issues. He had another major elbow surgery back in October, and will not pitch in 2024.
Still, Boston gave him a two-year minor league deal, so we could see him in 2025. For his sake, I hope he's able to rediscover that magic again. Fulmer was always one of the more likeable guys in the clubhouse while he was here. It was really neat to see him reinvent himself in the bullpen in 2021 after all he had been through. Here's hoping he can do it again.