PHOENIX — Detroit Tigers right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer has been involved in trade deadline conversations for nearly his entire career, beginning with the July 2015 trade that sent him from the New York Mets to the Tigers ahead of his MLB debut in April 2016.
Seven years later, the Tigers are prepared to shop Fulmer to postseason contenders leading up to the Aug. 2 trade deadline. The 29-year-old becomes a free agent after the season.
“I’m pitching here until I’m not, whenever that day is,” Fulmer said Saturday. “I’m not really worried about it. I’m not really focused on it. I’m just trying to go up and put up the best numbers I can, just trying to get wins.”
The Tigers (27-43) are 11 games out of first place in the American League Central and unlikely to advance to the postseason, so they won’t acquire rental-type players at the deadline.
That means the Tigers — winners in three of their past 12 games — will be sellers as far as 2022 is concerned.
“It’s not over,” Fulmer said. “We’re still a great team. We’re finally starting to play better as a team collectively. We’re holding leads when we need to in the bullpen, and the offense is heating up.”
Along with Fulmer, four other Tigers have expiring contracts: right-handed starter Michael Pineda ($5.5 million), outfielder Robbie Grossman ($5 million), catcher Tucker Barnhart ($7.5 million) and righty reliever Wily Peralta ($2.5 million).
Fulmer, a high-leverage reliever, is making $4.95 million in 2022. He has a 2.08 ERA with 12 walks and 27 strikeouts across 26 innings in 26 appearances, posting a career-best 0.923 WHIP.
“It’s one of those things, whether it’s the trade deadline, the end of the year or for future seasons,” Fulmer said. “Obviously, I just try to go out there and continue to put up zeros and focus on now. I’ve talked to people about that, and that’s all you can do. Don’t worry about what the future holds. Do what you need to do right now, and right now, we’re trying to win ballgames.”
One player Fulmer has received trade deadline advice from is Chicago Cubs left-handed reliever Daniel Norris, a Tiger from 2015-21. The Tigers traded Norris to the Milwaukee Brewers at the 2021 trade deadline for pitching prospect Reese Olson.
Teams had interest in Fulmer at last year’s deadline, but he was coming off back-to-back stints on the injured list: June 6-14 with a right shoulder strain and June 27-July 27 with a right cervical spine strain. He also underwent right knee surgery in September 2018 and Tommy John surgery in March 2019.
Norris pitched for the Brewers at the end of the regular season, but due to poor results, he didn’t receive a spot on the National League Division Series roster in the playoffs. Still, Norris competed in meaningful games down the stretch.
Fulmer could get the same opportunity, just not with the Tigers.
“He had a chance to pitch for a playoff contending team,” Fulmer said. “He said that was a big deal for him. I think everybody’s goal is to pitch in the postseason eventually.”
Austin Meadows close to rehab assignment
Outfielder Austin Meadows has been on the COVID-19 injured list since June 17 has cleared protocols and joined Triple-A Toledo for a couple days of workouts before the first game of his rehab assignment Tuesday.
Hinch expects Meadows to play a few games for the Mud Hens. He hopes the 27-year-old will return to the Tigers for Friday’s clash with the Kansas City Royals, which begins a seven-game homestand.
“That would be the most logical timeline,” Hinch said.
Meadows is hitting .250 with 16 walks and 17 strikeouts in 36 games this season, but he still seeks his first home run. He missed three weeks earlier this year, from late May to early June, with vertigo symptoms.
The Tigers traded for Meadows on April 5, acquiring him from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Isaac Paredes and the No. 71 overall pick in the 2022 draft. Paredes has a .232 batting average with 10 home runs, seven walks and 15 strikeouts in 33 games for the Rays.
When Meadows returns, the Tigers must create room on the roster by optioning a player to Toledo. The bench players are candidates for a demotion: Kody Clemens, Willi Castro and Harold Castro.
Clemens appears most likely to return to the Mud Hens.
Matt Manning update
Right-hander Matt Manning, on the injured list since April 17 despite four rehab assignment starts for Triple-A Toledo in May, is stationed in Lakeland, Florida, and throwing up to 90 feet on flat ground.
The 24-year-old is being supervised by Tigers director of pitching Gabe Ribas.
“One of the issues has been, he’s been very protective of his throwing,” Hinch said. “Some of that, psychologically, he’s got to get over that to know that it’s not going to increase inflammation. We sent Gabe down there to make sure his mechanics are all good. He can ramp up relatively quickly now that he’s throwing properly.”
After Manning’s fourth rehab start for the Mud Hens, the Tigers shut him down because he had been pitching through an injury. He made two starts for the Tigers before suffering right shoulder inflammation.
Promoting Kerry Carpenter
The Tigers promoted outfielder Kerry Carpenter to Triple-A Toledo. He started his first game Saturday as the Mud Hens’ right fielder, hitting an RBI double in the second inning and a two-run home run in the third inning.
Carpenter, 24, hit .304 with 16 doubles, 22 home runs, 16 walks and 72 strikeouts in 63 games for Double-A Erie, starting 29 games in right field, 24 games in left field and nine games as the designated hitter.
In 2019, the Tigers drafted Carpenter in the 19th round out of Virginia Tech.