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Fulmer interest spikes at Winter Meetings

Tigers 'just listening' to courtship from several rumored teams including Yankees
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers continue to traverse the hallways of Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel and Resort with ears open toward trade ideas. Since general manager Al Avila mentioned Monday that they would listen to inquiries on young ace Michael Fulmer, they've had a lot more to hear.

"More than a couple teams have expressed interest," general manager Al Avila. "All we're doing is just listening, and that's really it at this point. I would say that for us, it's just more that it pays to listen and see what's out there."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Tigers continue to traverse the hallways of Disney's Swan and Dolphin Hotel and Resort with ears open toward trade ideas. Since general manager Al Avila mentioned Monday that they would listen to inquiries on young ace Michael Fulmer, they've had a lot more to hear.

"More than a couple teams have expressed interest," general manager Al Avila. "All we're doing is just listening, and that's really it at this point. I would say that for us, it's just more that it pays to listen and see what's out there."

One of those teams is believed to be the Yankees. MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reported Tuesday that New York has Fulmer as a potential trade target along with other young, salary-controlled starting pitchers.

Avila hasn't mentioned specific teams to express interest, nor would he go into detail on what it would take for the Tigers to part with Fulmer when he has five years of team control left before he's eligible for free agency. But with the Tigers on a long-term rebuilding plan, it's clear they want prospects.

Video: MLB Tonight: Avila details Tigers' rebuild process

"There's some teams that have a more desirable farm system that they could make it happen if they were really aggressive," Avila said Monday. "If they really want to be aggressive, there's a handful of teams out there that have the players to do it."

Asked again Tuesday how many teams have enough to pull off a deal, Avila said five, so the number hasn't increased. A look at the Yankees' farm system shows why they could be one.

Though Avila didn't want to make the comparison, the Tigers are believed to be seeking the type of prospect bonanza the White Sox received from the Red Sox in the Chris Sale trade at last year's Winter Meetings. That type of return could reshape the Tigers' farm system. If that package isn't there now, the Tigers can wait until next year, when Fulmer won't be coming off surgery to move the ulnar nerve in his right elbow. Fulmer is currently less than an hour away in Lakeland, where he's working out at the Tigers' Spring Training facility as he begins his offseason throwing program.

The Yankees have the prospects to put together that package. It's a matter of whether they're willing to do it. They might not be willing to include Gleyber Torres, MLB Pipeline's top-ranked overall prospect until Shohei Ohtani came around, but who beyond that would they include?

Given the Tigers' dearth of top-level outfield prospects, any package from the Yankees would be expected to include outfielder Clint Frazier, who was a high-ranked overall prospect until his 142 plate appearances with New York this past season ruled him out of the rankings.

Video: TB@NYY: C. Frazier crushes a 455-foot homer vs. Rays

Frazier batted .231 (31-for-134) with 43 strikeouts with the Yanks, and .256 (70-for-273) with 19 doubles, 12 homers and 42 RBIs for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He's a high-strikeout right-handed hitter who can play all three outfield positions, but he has the athleticism and the potential to become a long-term fixture in center, something the Tigers haven't had since another former Yankees prospect, Austin Jackson. Frazier turned 23 in September.

The Yankees' third-ranked prospect is also an outfielder. Estevan Florial is a lanky, aggressive, athletic, 20-year-old left-handed hitter with power and speed who spent this past season in A-ball. Miguel Andjuar, the Yanks' fifth-ranked prospect, hit .315 with 16 homers and 82 RBIs between Double-A and Triple-A. He plays third base, but could be moved with Jeimer Candelario manning that position in Detroit for the foreseeable future.

Video: Florial named Yankees' Pipeline hitter of the year

Though the Tigers don't need pitching prospects as much, the Yankees have plenty to offer with enough talent that the Tigers could flip if they don't need. Right-hander Chance Adams (second on MLB Pipeline's Yankees prospect list) went 15-5 with a 2.45 ERA last season between Double-A and Triple-A. Justus Sheffield is a power lefty who made it to Double-A Trenton last season at age 21.

Those names are just concepts rather than reports or even rumors for now. The Tigers have a long way to go before they exchange names, and might never get there. But for a rebuilding squad in need of young talent, it's worth hearing out.

"Let's say you have an asset -- your house -- and somebody likes it," Avila explained. "You don't have it for sale, but somebody says, 'Man, I really like your house,' and they keep on pursuing you about your house. At some point, you might end up selling it. But at the end of the day, you might not, because you like it more than what they might offer."

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

Detroit Tigers, Michael Fulmer