The Braves made a surprising move following their loss to the Rays on Monday, designating starter Mike Foltynewicz for assignment after his rough outing. It’s been a very quick fall from grace for the Atlanta righty, who just last October was picked to start the deciding Game Five of the NLDS against the Cardinals. Granted, he was terrible in that game, but the team was confident enough to have him pitch in as important of a game as there could be and now just four games into the following season he has been let go.
As you may know, we are not a Braves site, so you may be wondering why I’m talking about this move. Well, you see, the Red Sox have been interested in just about every pitcher that has come across the market over the last couple of weeks. Over a ten-day span, they added Zack Godley, Dylan Covey, Stephen Gonsalves and Robert Stock, all essentially for free. Foltynewicz will be a little more complicated than that, but it would still be shocking if the Red Sox didn’t make the move here.
Let’s start with the good and the bad for Foltynewicz. The good is he has been very good pretty recently, finishing eighth in the 2018 NL Cy Young voting after pitching to a 2.85 ERA with a 3.33 FIP and a 3.44 DRA. He did take a step back last season — 4.54, 4.92, 4.36 — but even then he was league-average or better in ERA and DRA. And anyone who has watched even a few minutes of Red Sox baseball knows they would kill for league-average pitching. When Foltynewicz is at his best, he misses bats at a high rate and generates enough weak contact to work around his control issues.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t been at his best since camp started, which was the reason given for the move. Braves manager Brian Snitker said that Foltynewicz is a “stuff guy” and the stuff just hasn’t been there. In yesterday’s game, for example, Baseball Savant had the righty topping out just under 93 mph with the fastball and sitting just under 91. In the last two seasons he’s averaged 95 and 96, respectively, with the heat. He needs that velocity to succeed. It’s also worth pointing out that the Talking Chop post linked at the top of the page alludes to some public engagement with critics, which is generally not a great sign for frustration.
Despite all the concerns, the Red Sox should and presumably will be right in the thick of things to make this move. This is a team, after all, that used Josh Osich and Jeffrey Springs to cover the first four innings on Monday. They are starting Matt Hall on Tuesday. Martín Pérez and Ryan Weber are their numbers two and three starters. They need pitching help, is what I’m trying to say, and Chaim Bloom has been aggressive in picking up arms off the scrap heap whenever he can. This is his best chance yet.
The thing is, this is going to be a little more complicated than placing a waiver claim and then sitting back and waiting. Foltynewicz, even with the very real concerns with his current stuff, is going to be very popular. Hell, the Marlins have the first chance at him — waivers start with the worst record from the league of the player’s previous team, and this early in the season it is based on last year’s record — and they currently have an outbreak of COVID-19 on their roster. They need bodies to fill out the roster. So, the Red Sox will have to work out a trade to make this work. As far as contractual information, the righty turns 29 after the season, was set to make $6.4 million as his full-year salary this year, is arbitration-eligible next season and eligible for free agency after the 2021 campaign.
It does not speak very highly of your roster if you so badly need a version of Mike Foltynewicz who is barely topping 90, but such is life for the current Red Sox. This season was supposed to be about Bloom’s creativity in finding pitching and churning through all the options available. Foltynewicz is the latest option available, and it makes too much sense not to get something done.