Fulmer hit the injured list late last month with what the team termed a cervical spine strain. His return comes just days before the trade deadline, so it’s possible he won’t have enough time to convince other clubs of his health, but prior to his injury Fulmer looked like one of the more obvious trade candidates around the league.
The now-28-year-old righty was acquired from the Mets in the 2015 Yoenis Cespedes blockbuster and promptly won American League Rookie of the Year honors as a member of the Tigers’ rotation in 2016. That season saw the righty pitch 159 innings of 3.06 ERA ball over the life of 26 starts. He struck out 20.4 percent of opponents along the way, posted a very strong 6.5 percent walk rate and an above-average 48.9 percent grounder rate.
Fulmer looked like the next in a long line of quality arms that had helped the Tigers to perennial contender status earlier in the decade, but injuries have largely derailed that outlook. He’s undergone ulnar nerve transposition surgery and Tommy John surgery since that Rookie of the Year campaign and has pitched a total of just 200 innings since Opening Day 2018 — including 40 frames this year.
After seeing diminished output as a starting pitcher, Fulmer reinvented himself in the bullpen this season. He’s been hammered for a 4.97 ERA in his handful of starts this season but had pitched to a 3.62 ERA with a sizable 29.7 percent strikeout rate and just a 5.1 percent walk rate out of the ’pen. That bullpen ERA was sitting at 2.73 prior to his final outing prior to landing on the IL, when he served up three runs in an inning of work before alerting the team of the injury.
Fulmer is earning a reasonable $3.1MM salary this year and is controlled into the 2022 season via arbitration. That could pique the interest of contending clubs, but the extra year of control also means the Tigers needn’t simply accept the best offer that comes their way after he’s had maybe one or two innings to showcase his health. Fulmer could reestablish himself in the season’s final months and be shopped this winter, and it’s also possible that the Tigers could decide to hang onto him into next year as they look to field a more competitive club.
Krol, 30, returned to the Majors for his first look since 2018. He tossed 4 2/3 innings out of the Detroit bullpen and held opponents to a pair of runs on four hits and a pair of walks with four strikeouts in that time. He’d been on a nice run in Triple-A prior to his call-up and has a pair of quality big league seasons under his belt, but consistency has been hard for him to come by; he carries a 4.48 ERA in 194 2/3 Major League innings and has on three occasions posted single-season ERAs of 4.96 or higher. The Tigers can trade him in the next couple days if they find a suitor — otherwise Krol will be placed on outright waivers or released.