Teams offer conflicting accounts if Detroit has ever made Michael Fulmer available.
Executives for some teams say he hasn’t. Others say that Fulmer has been floated in conversations, and then Tigers officials suddenly change the subject to the availability of Justin Verlander or Justin Wilson. Then there’s one executive who said he received a concept from Detroit in which perhaps Fulmer would be available if the acquiring team agreed to take on a bad contract in addition, such as the one belonging to Jordan Zimmermann or Justin Upton.
Fulmer, the Tigers’ key return at the deadline two years ago from the Mets for Yoenis Cespedes, has emerged as their top starter, which in conjunction with his youth, low salary and years of control, would make him exceptionally appealing in this market.
For now, though, the starter whom the Tigers are discussing most is Verlander, though no officials have said Detroit has broached eating some of the $56 million owed in 2018-19 as a way to get better prospects in return. The Yankees, for example, with a quest to get under the $197 million luxury-tax threshold next year, have told the Tigers they cannot financially take on Verlander’s whole deal.
Verlander is peaking right now with a 2.77 ERA and .208 batting average against in his past four starts. This being the 2017 Tigers, they are 0-4 in those games.
Fulmer was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2016 when he went 11-7 with a 3.06 ERA and a 3.76 FIP in 159 innings. This season has been more of the same, with a 3.35 ERA in 19 starts (126 1⁄3 IP). He was worth 3.0 fWAR last year and is already at 3.2 fWAR this season, with a FIP of 3.34.
The point is, Detroit has a lot of aging players on their roster making a lot of money. If they want to free up some cash and replenish a below average system to start a rebuild of their own, they may have to trade Fulmer to do it.