KANSAS CITY -- With two weeks to go before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, right-hander Michael Fulmer has become the most intriguing name to be speculated about among the Tigers. That chill coming out of Detroit on Monday was the splash of cold water general manager Al Avila threw on the
KANSAS CITY -- With two weeks to go before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, right-hander Michael Fulmer has become the most intriguing name to be speculated about among the Tigers. That chill coming out of Detroit on Monday was the splash of cold water general manager Al Avila threw on the speculation on MLB Network.
"The probability of that kind of trade happening is probably zero," Avila told High Heat host Christopher Russo. "It's all speculation at this point. Obviously, you can never say never, but at the same time, it's not probable at this point."
That probably won't stop teams from trying. Not all of the 10 or so scouts on hand at Fulmer's last start on Saturday were looking at him specifically, but many teams are keeping an eye on him. With many contenders -- and even some non-contenders -- looking for starting pitchers they can hold onto for a while without a big contract, some are going to follow what the Cubs did and make inquiries, if they haven't already.
"Fulmer has been a guy who has attracted a lot of attention," Avila said. "It's muddied the waters a little bit. Now there is speculation that we have him out there, and we don't. But you can't stop a team from calling and inquiring. We're not going to be so naïve to where we say we're not even going to listen. I've learned many, many years ago, if you can get two Michael Fulmers for one, it's a pretty good trade."
If that last part sounds familiar, it's similar to the approach Avila's predecessor, Dave Dombrowski, always took into the Trade Deadline and offseason. Dombrowski rarely called any player untouchable, because he never wanted to eliminate the possibility of being overwhelmed by an offer for a player, even a great, young one.
Even so, the Fulmer rumor has grown legs, whether serious or not.
"Now Michael Fulmer has to deal with it because other teams have leaked out that they've talked to the Tigers about Fulmer, when really there's no intent to trade him," manager Brad Ausmus said. "The leaking of information is seedy in baseball."
While the Tigers encounter the challenge of finding teams willing to deal highly-regarded prospects for Justin Verlander, while also taking on the bulk of his remaining contract, the potential return for Fulmer could be much larger. The irony would be that they'd be looking for the next Fulmer, who was a Mets prospect when the Tigers -- led at the time by Dombrowski -- traded Yoenis Cespedes to New York two summers ago.
The Tigers head towards the Trade Deadline with two goals: Reduce payroll and restock the farm system with good talent. Accomplishing both with Verlander will be difficult, given the contract. Trading Fulmer could reshape the club's prospect rankings, but would accomplish little with payroll; Fulmer won't be eligible for salary arbitration until after next season, and he has five seasons before he's eligible for free agency.
If the Tigers decide they have to do something big and accelerate a rebuild, they could ask interested teams to take on one of their big contracts as part of a Fulmer package, a tactic the Braves used in shedding the Melvin Upton Jr. contract as part of Craig Kimbrel's trade to the Padres in 2015.
For now, at least, that sounds unlikely. While the Tigers are likely to make moves before July 31, Fulmer probably won't be one of them.
"If we can make a good deal, we probably will -- if there is one to be made," Avila said. "If not, we will move forward with our players. That's where we are at right now."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.