Phillies sign former Tigers pitcher as Detroit rotation takes hit

Detroit Tigers v St. Louis Cardinals
Detroit Tigers v St. Louis Cardinals / Joe Puetz/GettyImages

In 2021, Spencer Turnbull was only one of seven pitchers to throw a complete game no-hitter, and the first to do so for the Detroit Tigers since Justin Verlander ten years prior. It was a huge moment for a homegrown former top prospect who hadn't quite lived up to expectations in his three preceding seasons, and who only ever pitched more than 100 innings once in 2019.

However, he was sidelined by injuries soon after the no-hitter in May, and they kept him down until 2023. His return was rough; seven starts, a 7.26 ERA and a demotion back down to Triple-A before being non-tendered in November.

What followed between Turnbull and the Tigers' front office seemed messy and couched in a lot of terse, political talk — although he only pitched 31 innings in 2023, he negotiated his way into qualifying for a full year of service before the Tigers closed the book on him and sent him on his way.

Although getting a full year of service under his belt could've helped him with interested teams in free agency, it wasn't exactly a great look to haggle with his former club. His market was pretty much silent until Sunday night, when Turnbull and the Phillies reached an agreement on a one-year, $2 million contract.

Spencer Turnbull, Phillies agree to a one-year deal after Detroit Tigers non-tender

Turnbull was taken in the second round of the 2014 draft, in the second to last year of now-Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski's tenure as CEO of the Tigers. Dombrowski's 14 years with the Tigers were, by far, the team's best so far this century. Under his leadership, the Tigers coaxed Jim Leyland out of retirement and made four consecutive trips to the postseason. He's done much of the same in recent years with the Phillies, who are close to becoming perennial postseason contenders.

So this Turnbull-Phillies deal is something of a Detroit reunion, and it could be possible that Dombrowski still sees something in Turnbull that led the Tigers to take him in the draft. The Tigers were never going to have Turnbull back, even taking into account the flash of no-hitter greatness, especially not after the full-year-of-service runaround when the season ended. If Turnbull is able to do well in Philadelphia, then good for him. The Tigers' rotation is pretty much set with six pitchers who, hopefully, won't give the team as much grief as Turnbull did.