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Inbox: How likely are Tigers to trade Fulmer?

Beat reporter Jason Beck answers fans' questions
December 18, 2017

Depends on the timeframe. I think Michael Fulmer eventually will be traded; the Tigers' timetable for getting back to contention and their need for more top prospects to accelerate that are driving the momentum. And if you're general manager Al Avila, you don't talk about listening on Fulmer and how

Depends on the timeframe. I think Michael Fulmer eventually will be traded; the Tigers' timetable for getting back to contention and their need for more top prospects to accelerate that are driving the momentum. And if you're general manager Al Avila, you don't talk about listening on Fulmer and how many teams could realistically put together a deal for him (five) unless you're looking for teams to step up and overwhelm you with an offer. Whether a trade happens this offseason, next summer or next offseason is the bigger question.

The more rumors about the Yankees' interest in Pittsburgh' Gerrit Cole, the less the chances appear that Fulmer is dealt this winter. New York has the prospects to make it worth the Tigers' trouble to trade Fulmer, moreso than any other team currently looking for a starter.
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The Tigers want a Fulmer trade to be what the Chris Sale deal was for the White Sox rebuild. Chicago received four prospects from Boston, including two top-rated prospects close to Major League ready (Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech), when Sale went to the Red Sox last December. Sale had more accomplishments and a track record when he was dealt, but had fewer years of control (three). Among the five years of control left on Fulmer is next season at a pre-arbitration salary. The Tigers could wait until next year and still deal him with four years of control left; the only difference would be that pre-arbitration year would be all but gone. He has enough service time that he's expected to qualify for arbitration next offseason as a super-two player.

A lot has been made about Fulmer coming off surgery to move the ulnar ligament in his elbow to relieve the numbness and discomfort that bothered him last summer. The surgery has a track record of success, Jacob deGrom being a notable example, but it's still surgery and a recovery process. If the Tigers hold onto him and he comes back healthy, that question would be answered heading into next summer.
There's also the question of how many top prospects the Yankees are willing to trade. MLB Network's Jon Heyman reported the Pirates would want top prospect Gleyber Torres in a Cole trade, but that appears to be a non-starter. Torres is the kind of elite prospect the Tigers crave, but given the need for outfield prospects, there's also a clear fit for center-field prospect Clint Frazier. And unlike the Pirates, the Tigers have enough top pitching prospects already that they don't necessarily have to have one in return. So, if Torres is untouchable, can the Tigers and Yankees put together enough other prospects around Frazier to make a deal work?

They are not, at least not this offseason. After the recent salaries they've shed, the Tigers still have enough heavy contracts (Jose Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Jordan Zimmermann) that they're looking to maintain that space, not cut into it. The only way I could see something working would be if they could trade another contract, such as Zimmermann, in return. Ellsbury has three more seasons guaranteed on his contract at just over $21 million, plus a $5 million buyout or $21 million salary for 2021. Kemp has two more seasons on his deal, but a positional fit would be difficult regardless.

Well, if I had a book coming out, this would be a good place to plug it. Since I don't, I will drop a mention for two former Tigers beat writers. Tom Gage's book, "The Big 50: The Men and Moments that Made the Detroit Tigers" is still available. So is Danny Knobler's book, "Numbers Don't Lie: The Biggest Numbers in Tigers History."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.