The most intriguing news from the Winter Meetings regarding the Detroit Tigers is the possibility of trading starting pitcher Michael Fulmer. Jason Beck of MLB.com reported via Twitter that the Tigers were receiving multiple calls on their ace. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the New York Yankees have inquired about the possibility acquiring Fulmer via trade. Nothing appears close, but the Yankees interest appears serious.
Whether you are interested in trading Fulmer or not, the potential haul the Yankees could offer in return makes this a deal the Tigers have to investigate.
IF Gleyber Torres
New York has one of the top farm systems in the major leagues. Their top chip is MLB.com’s second overall prospect, infielder Gleyber Torres. Though recently dethroned by Shohei Ohtani, Torres spent most of 2017 as baseball's top prospect. The Yankees acquired the blue chipper at the 2016 trade deadline in the deal that sent Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs.
Torres played 55 games between AA and AAA last season before needing Tommy John surgery to his non-throwing arm which ended his 2017 campaign. The toolsy shortstop mashed only seven homers but hit .309 at AAA. He also draws accolades for his defense. Torres is slated to be recovered and ready to go in time for spring training.
Some, such as Yankees beat reporter Sweeny Murti, have suggested Torres might be untouchable. While his tools, along with the Yankees holes in the infield, might make him tough to give up, the Yankees will be required to pay a premium for a young controllable talent such as Fulmer. Fans should look to the Cubs acquisition for Eloy Jiminez in the Jose Quintana deal last season as a comparable situation. There’s no reason for Detroit to make this move without a serious influx of minor league talent coming back their way.
OF Clint Frazier
Another name floated is power hitting outfielder Clint Frazier. The orange-haired slugger made his major league debut in 2016, playing in 26 games for the Bronx Bombers. The 23-year-old former first rounder had 17 extra base hits last season and profiles as an athletic corner outfielder with developing power.
OF Estevan Florial
Tigers fans looking to bolster the farm system’s outfield depth should also look to outfield prospect Estevan Florial. The speedster is ranked 79th on MLB.com’s top 100 list and is entering his age 20 season.
After stealing 50 bases over two levels in 2017, Florial will now look to bolster his offensive abilities next season. He’s established himself as one of the minor leagues best base stealers, but will need to reduce his strikeouts moving forward.
3B Miguel Andujar
The final high end positional talent on the Yankees’ farm is MLB.com’s fourth-ranked third base prospect, Miguel Andujar. The 22-year-old Dominican infielder made a brief major league debut last season. Most of his mashing was done in the minors however, where he belted 16 home runs and hit for a .315 average. His rocket arm profiles him as a third baseman as long as his glove develops.
All of the pitchers
The Yankees also have a number of young pitchers who could be had via trade. Right-handers Chance Adams, Domingo Acevedo and Albert Abreu along with left-hander Justus Sheffield are all in the Yankees’ organizational top 10 prospects list. Adams and Sheffield are particularly interesting trade options, as both sit on MLB.com’s top 100 list.
Adams posted a 15-5 record over two levels last season with a fastball that sat between 94-96 mph. His batting average against was low, at .193, and his strikeout to walk ratio was a reasonable 2.33.
Sheffield could provide some much needed left handed pitching depth to the Tigers farm system. A former first rounder in 2014, he can touch 96 mph with his fastball. Control has been an issue for Sheffield and he was never pitched above AA, however he is entering his age 21 season and has time to develop into an upper-mid rotation starter.
The part where we rationalize a very sad idea
If the Tigers want to pick from a top farm system, they won’t do much better than the New York Yankees. The talent is plentiful, and they could put together a very nice package of prospects without gutting their system. The acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton has also made several of their outfield prospects a bit more expendable.
Trading Fulmer would be a bold move for the Tigers, and the return would have to be substantial. Fulmer is still a cost-controlled, top tier starter, just 24 years of age. The Yankees would have five years before Fulmer reaches free agency. That’s a very valuable commodity.
General manager Al Avila is obliged to listen, as such a deal could propel the Tigers’ rebuilding effort in a major way. Gleyber Torres, in particular, would be a huge boost to a farm system still weak in middle infield talent. However, unless the Yankees are committed enough to part with several high end prospects, the Tigers will rightly pass on a deal.