The Tigers announced this morning that they’ve released right-hander Zack Godley. He’d been in Spring Training and Summer Camp as a non-roster player, though he seemed to have a reasonable chance of making the club. Godley’s initial deal was worth up to $3MM after incentives and allowed him to elect free agency at season’s end even though he’d normally have been arbitration-eligible. That was surely a notable incentive for the 30-year-old, but it seems the Tigers’ thought process has changed. MLB.com’s Jason Beck tweets that Godley had an opt-out prior to Opening Day anyhow, and the team wanted to give him some extra time to find a new club.
Godley has spent the vast majority of his career with the Diamondbacks, for whom he racked up 520 2/3 innings from 2015-19. His best season came back in 2017, when he spun 155 innings of 3.37 ERA ball with 9.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9 and a 55.3 percent ground-ball rate. He followed that up with a career-high 178 1/3 frames and a 4.74 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 2018.
Last season, however, Godley’s strikeout rate and ground-ball rate plummeted. His sinker sat at just 90 mph after averaging 91.9 mph in that strong 2017 season, and hitters were able to elevate the ball against him like never before (11.1 percent launch angle in ’19; 3.1 percent in ’17). The end result was an ERA north of 6.00 in 76 innings with the D-backs, although he did post better results upon landing with the Blue Jays (3.94 ERA in 16 innings).
All told, Godley has experience in parts of five Major League seasons, during which time he’s pitched to a 4.70 ERA (4.13 FIP, 4.07 xFIP) with averages of 8.6 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 1.04 HR/9. His sinker didn’t have its usual effectiveness last year, but half the balls put into play against Godley since his MLB debut have been put on the ground. For a team in need of some rotation depth and/or a long relief option, Godley could certainly hold some appeal. With three-plus years of MLB service time, he’d be controllable through the 2022 season (barring a similar clause to the one he had with Detroit, allowing him to hit free agency early).
From the Tigers’ vantage point, Godley seemed like a long shot to make the rotation after a long delay, as the extra down time gave righty Michael Fulmer time to recover from Tommy John surgery. Fulmer will join Matthew Boyd, Spencer Turnbull, Jordan Zimmermann and offseason signee Ivan Nova on Detroit’s starting staff, though Godley could’ve given them a sixth starter/long relief type of arm early in the year. His release could open the door for another option like Hector Santiago or Nick Ramirez. Eventually, the Tigers may call upon a top pitching prospect like Casey Mize, Matt Manning or Tarik Skubal to get an audition.