The Tigers have won their arbitration hearing against right-hander Michael Fulmer, reports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (via Twitter). He’ll now earn the $2.8MM salary that the team filed rather than the $3.4MM submitted by his camp.
Fulmer, 26 next month, struggled through the worst season of his young career in 2018, recording a 4.69 ERA with 7.5 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, a career-high 1.29 HR/9 and a career-low 44.1 percent ground-ball rate. The righty was also limited to a career-low 132 1/3 innings as he worked through oblique and knee injuries. While the 2018 campaign was far from his best work, Fulmer was a quality arm in each of his first two MLB campaigns, including a 2016 season in which he was named American League Rookie of the Year.
The lack of innings in Fulmer’s platform year, a career losing record thanks largely to playing on a rebuilding Tigers team (wins and losses still factor into arbitration proceedings even if they’re no longer valued by Major League front offices), and a relatively pedestrian strikeout rate all likely worked against Fulmer as he made a case for an additional $600K on top of what the Tigers offered.
Moving forward, Fulmer’s future raises and salaries in arbitration will be based upon that $2.8MM figure, meaning today’s loss has compounding downside for him in the future. He’ll be eligible for arbitration thrice more as a Super Two player before reaching free agency upon the completion of the 2022 campaign (barring a future extension, of course). Given Detroit’s status as a rebuilding club, Fulmer figures to once again see his name circulating on the rumor circuit this summer, though with so much team control remaining, the Tigers certainly hope to be competitive well before Fulmer is close to the open market. As such, there won’t be as much urgency to move him as there will be with a shorter-term asset such as right fielder Nicholas Castellanos.
Fulmer is the 10th player to go to a hearing this year, and as can be seen in MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, the players won six of those 10 hearings. Fulmer was the league’s final unresolved case, so this year’s slate of arbitration hearings will lean slightly in favor of the players’ side.