Has Spencer Turnbull pitched his last game for the Detroit Tigers?
Spencer Turnbull's Detroit Tigers career may be over
What a difference six weeks can make. I talked all spring training long about how good Spencer Turnbull looked and how he has primed for a breakout season. Fast forward to mid-May, and he's on the IL amid a set of weird circumstances and very well may have pitched his last game for the Detroit Tigers.
Turnbull was told following last Saturday's start against the St. Louis Cardinals that he was being demoted to Triple-A Toledo. His 7.26 ERA and inability to finish outings left the Tigers with no choice. However, he never reported down there. As it turns out, there was a reason for that.
According to several reports, Turnbull called president of baseball operations Scott Harris following the meeting and told him that he had been experiencing neck soreness. This prompted the Tigers to get his neck looked at and place him on the 15-day IL.
The timeline of events here is very strange. Turnbull was demoted May 7, never reported to Toledo, and then was placed on the IL on Friday.
One thing is worth nothing here. With Turnbull being on the IL rather than being in Toledo, he's still earning his major league salary. If he had reported to Toledo, he would be making a minor league salary, which is obviously much less than a big league check.
Turnbull also switched agents. He is now a Scott Boras client. Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic (subscription required) put out a really good article that explains everything really well.
The agent change is really intriguing. He gets sent down, then switches agents a few days later? Maybe that's a coincidence, but the timing is just too perfect
Turnbull is 30 years old and has been in the big leagues for parts of five seasons. If he had stayed in Triple-A for about a month, the Tigers would have gained another year of team control over him. He would have been a free agent after the 2025 season instead of after the 2024 season.
This is pure speculation, but maybe he thought the Tigers were playing the service time game with him and felt disrespected, and told them about the neck injury he would have otherwise pitched through.
As much as I would like to think the Tigers weren't manipulating his service time, that's just how some teams operate, even with the new rules in last year's CBA that give teams incentives to not do that. That could have very easily been what was going on.
Buy at the same time, Turnbull has been a very inconsistent pitcher throughout his career. He has a career 4.55 ERA and has only pitched over 140 innings in a full season once in his career.
He's always had trouble after the first time through the batting order. His stuff is always super effective at first, but loses steam as the game goes on. Yes, he is coming off Tommy John surgery, but this has been a problem for him throughout his career. Because of this, many people—myself included—have thought he should move to the bullpen.
His fastball and slider are a wicked combo. In a bullpen role, they'd both play up. He'd be able to throw harder as well. Turnbull would make a dynamite reliever.
But right now, all of that is on hold. We have to wait for Turnbull to get healthy...or do we?
Considering how poor this year has gone for Turnbull, and the fact that he just switched agents, I think there's a chance he's pitched his last game as a Detroit Tiger. He'll either ask for a trade or they'll mutually agree to part ways and he'll be DFA'd. There's a chance that's where this is headed.
It stinks, because again, I really thought he was in for a breakout season. There was so much promise in spring training. Sadly he just hasn't lived up to the hype.
I don't blame Turnbull for not wanting to go down to Triple-A, if that is indeed what has happened here. Again, he's 30. In his eyes, he shouldn't have to do that. But he hasn't performed well, and he had an option left, and the Tigers felt this was the best move to get him back on track.
I could be totally wrong here, and I probably am. This is pure (and irresponsible) speculation. But I think Spencer Turnbull may have pitched his last game for the Detroit Tigers.