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Red Sox Trade Target: Michael Fulmer

No, we are probably not getting Michael Fulmer. The cost is too great. But what if?

Detroit Tigers v Houston Astros
Michael Fulmer is good, but expensive, and might not move the needle this year anyways.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Yep, Eduardo Rodriguez is still hurt. Our depth options still aren’t great. Nothing has really changed in the past few days. With no real meaningful baseball being played, let’s stumble around into a fantasy world where we can actually afford to get a cost-controlled starter for a long period of time. You know, the kind of pitcher we probably can’t afford with the state of our farm system.

The king of that list (cost-controlled starters) in terms of actually available assets is Jacob deGrom, and it’s not particularly close. In second place, though, is Michael Fulmer. Fulmer has struggled quite a good deal this year, as he is the owner of a 4.50 ERA, and peripherals that suggest he hasn’t been all that much better than his ERA.

What’s gone wrong for Fulmer this season? To put it simply, it’s his walk rate. To put it mildly more complexly, it’s because he’s not getting guys out, and he’s giving up too many walks. The main issue I’ve noticed is that unlike in years past, Fulmer is struggling at the beginning of innings. With the bases empty this year, he’s significantly worse than he was in either his rookie or sophomore seasons. He’s already walked 28 batters with the bases empty this season, in only 59 innings. That’s a BB/9 rate of 4.27. It should go without saying that starting off innings with walks is not a good recipe for success.

Detroit Tigers v Texas Rangers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

To be fair, his other numbers look good. He’s getting guys to swing and miss at his pitches, he gets batters to chase outside on occasion, and if his Brooks Baseball page is accurate, he’s got the stuff to be getting guys out. It’s this seeming lack of aggression at the beginning of an inning that’s leaving him snake bitten.

The point I want to make with all this, is that I believe Fulmer is more talented than the 4.50 ERA he’s showcased through the first half of 2018 would let on. This isn’t really a controversial statement, I don’t think. Most people are thinking about the cost rather than his talent, as they probably should right now.

Another fact about Michael Fulmer is that he’s under team control for four more seasons. Four potentially cheap seasons, below market-rate. When you talk about a trade with the Tigers for Fulmer, this is what is going to drive up the cost of a package even more than the talent. Four years of even an average starter have some value. Four years of an average starter, who has shown flashes of being more than an average starter? My bet is that if we were selling, and a team wanted to try to pry Eduardo Rodriguez away (honestly I’d argue he’s better so it’s not a perfect comparison, but roll with it) from us, you’d want a king’s ransom for him.

This isn’t so different for the Tigers and their fans, who do not need to trade Fulmer (and shouldn’t. They should wait until the off-season before even thinking about it) but want the world in return if they do move him.

An offer of Michael Chavis, Jason Groome, and Mike Shawaryn might not get you to the table, if the public opinion in Detroit has its way. And yet, this may represent the fairest offer the Red Sox can truly make, if they want to go out of their way to acquire a cost-controlled starter at his weakest point. There’s no denying that Chavis and Groome’s values have dropped. There’s a valid argument that neither of them are truly top 100 prospects anymore (I would argue for 75s range personally), and the Tigers are looking for at least one, and probably two, to make a move happen. I wouldn’t offer this package (my offer would be significantly less, one of Chavis/Groome, one of Travis/Swihart, and Jalen Beeks, maybe), because I think we can make better use of our assets elsewhere, and Fulmer’s extra years of control will just drive the price too high.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Mets - Game One
I believe Zack Wheeler is a significantly better use of our assets, if our goal is to win now.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Fulmer would bring some stability to the back end of the Red Sox rotation, and with his control, it would be easy to let Drew Pomeranz walk, as the Red Sox try to save up money for a Chris Sale (and Mookie Betts!) extension. But Fulmer would also likely be prohibitively expensive, and non-sensical for the Tigers to move (he’s at his lowest value, and team control is far more of a valued asset in the off-season).

Michael Fulmer isn’t coming to the Red Sox. At least, not yet. In fact, I don’t think Michael Fulmer is going anywhere yet. He makes way more sense for teams to consider after the season. This is doubly true for the Tigers, who aren’t likely to get the monster return they’d want for him quite yet. Table this idea for the off-season, and I consider it a much more plausible rumor.