Spencer Turnbull was off to a strong start to the 2021 season, working 50 innings of 2.88 ERA ball with a massive 57.2% ground-ball rate over his first nine starts — one of which was a no-hitter against the Mariners. After those productive first two months, the right-hander landed on the injured list with what was originally termed a forearm strain. Early reports indicated that Turnbull may be able to avoid a long-term absence, but it emerged in mid-July that he’d torn his UCL and required Tommy John surgery. That procedure obviously ended his season and its timing cast his 2022 campaign in similar doubt. TJS procedures often require around 14 months of rehab time, raising a question of whether the University of Alabama product will be available at all this year.
Speaking with Chris McCosky of the Detroit News this afternoon, Turnbull expressed optimism about his chances of making it back to the majors late in the season. He tells McCosky he’s been throwing on flat ground for the past few weeks and generally feels his arm is progressing well. Like other players rehabbing from injury, he’s been unable to communicate with team personnel during the lockout. Turnbull described the situation as “weird” and “not ideal” but maintained he’s confident in the non-Tigers medical staff currently leading his recovery. The 29-year-old is controllable through 2024 via arbitration and projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a modest $1.8MM salary this season.
More out of Detroit:
- The delay to Opening Day puts the Tigers in an odd position with top prospects Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene, writes Cody Stavenhagen of The Athletic. Both were expected to be in the mix for Opening Day roster spots, but the season’s delay will now likely push Major League Spring Training back to the point where it overlaps with the Triple-A season. The Tigers could be faced with pulling the pair from a more competitive setting in Triple-A to fly them back down to Florida for exhibition play — and then perhaps disrupting their season by sending them back to Toledo (where the team’s Triple-A affiliate plays) if either player is ultimately reassigned. It’s not a situation that’s unique to the Tigers, and one could even argue that Detroit is in an advantageous position, given that their two best prospects — both considered Top 10 throughout all of MLB — are both off the 40-man roster. The fact that neither is on the 40-man yet means that both are at least able to work out with team staff at their spring facility in Lakeland. Still, the organization faced a potentially difficult decision in the first place, and the delay to Opening Day adds another layer. Stavenhagen also has quotes from both players on the matter and some general observations from minicamp.
- The Tigers kicked off their offseason by acquiring backstop Tucker Barnhart from the Reds. The seven-year veteran has taken on an active role in the MLB Players Association for the bulk of his career, and he’s been involved in the union’s efforts during this stage of collective bargaining talks. Barnhart spoke with Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free-Press in the wake of the league’s announcement Tuesday that it was canceling the first two series of the regular season. The two-time Gold Glove winner, who wasn’t attending this week’s negotiations in-person, admitted he woke up Tuesday morning believing the parties would finalize a new CBA in time to avoid that outcome based on the optimistic reports that had trickled out the night before. However, Barnhart says he learned Tuesday morning that while the previous night’s discussions had made some progress, the gaps hadn’t been closed as much as had seemed — a common refrain echoed by many on the players’ side. He and Petzold discuss the various issues that remain to be sorted out.
I thought they both were on the 40 man. So I guess they can start the season in the minors at least and get more experience
That actually does sort of create an interesting problem once the lockout is over. How do teams manage prospects if the minor league season is already going when training camp opens? Could be the first “spring training” where the only minor league invites are just veterans that signed minor league deals
It might depend on the expectations the teams have for each prospects: Those who are likely to get promoted to the majors (like Greene, Torkelson and also Kreidler with Detroit) might be better off staying at AAA level. Since this year the prospect minicamps are held before Spring Training, the clubs might have more resources available for the prospects – making their participation at Spring Training a bit more expendable. In the end, I think teams like the Tigers whose top prospects do not belong to the 40-man rosters do have a significant advantage throughout the lockout.
I have my opening day tickets for Toledo.
Others certainly are more critical of Avila than I am. However, I think one element has been lacking during his tenure – signing future core players to affordable extensions while they are still under team control.
The Tigers had payrolls far below the CBT for years, but want to compete and increase their spending now. They should have signed Turnbull to an extension already, shifting his payments towards earlier years and thus keeping his AAV down when they want to spend much more in order to compete. Another candidate would have been Michael Fulmer, who becomes a FA next winter.
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Fulmer was terrible in 2020 and again early last season until losing his rotation spot and reinventing himself as a closer. I would be surprised if Avila didn’t talk about an extension now that Fulmer has shown himself to be MLB-worthy again.
Good thing they didn’t sign Turnbull to an extension just before his TJS. Paying him even more to rehab wouldn’t have been a good “investment.” Hopefully he has a complete recovery.
Turnbull is just now arbitration eligible. Unless you are of the ability of a Fernando Tatis Jr, teams don’t sign pre arb players to extensions. IF you are going to do that you do that after the first or second arb season.
I agree you don’t see it done much. But, why? I would be fine to see a player like Candelario or Fulmer get extended on a fair value contract. Nothing too ridiculous, but I think 2-3 year seems pretty reasonable. I think it would bode well with team morale.
Maybe I’m just not so bullish on the guys behind them though.
The Tigers haven’t had any players at the level you pounce and extend prematurely. The biggest knock on Avila I’d say is not having traded Boyd and Fulmer when they had controllable years and much more value. Their team control was clearly way ahead of pace of rebuild. Trading a ROY SP could have brought quite a bit in return from a contender.
In my opinion, when this whole mess is finally resolved, and you’re about to start ST, you take a look at how Greene and Tork are progressing in Toledo. If they are hitting the cover off the ball then bring them to Lakeland and start them in regular ST. If they are struggling, you leave them there in Toledo and continue to get them regular ABs. Hoping for a resolution soon so this is a moot point!
I highly doubt the Tigers will bring Tork or Greene to Lakeland after the AAA season starts, if this thing drags on that long. Spring training is not that competitive especially since most starters only play a few innings. They will be up to full speed by the start of the AAA season and they will be better served by playing regularly in Toledo. Pure mental gymnastics by a sportswriter who needs something to write about.
But they will need someone to take reps at 1b during ST. It won’t be ideal to have Cabrera playing more innings in the field. If the plan is for Schoop to play 2B, you don’t want him getting only 1b time. If given a choice of calling over Torkelson or their other AAA 1B, Lester, I see them calling over Tork.
IF in fact this does drag past April, any spring training they do will not look anything like what they normally do. Schoop played a lot of 1B last year and he will again this year. Also Haase likely will be taking reps at 1B as well. So they can more than cover 1B in some spring games along with some innings by Cabrera as he will play some 1B again this year as he did last year. Covering 1B for some spring games is a minor issue. Tork was never a certainty for 1B right out of the gate this year. Tigers have a plan to cover 1B without Tork this year and they will use that plan in spring training.
All teams will have difficulty having enough catchers for spring training with the minor leagues started. Usually each team has six or more in camp.
I think the tigers would be best served by allowing Torkelson and Greene to continue playing in AAA instead of spring training. If they’re doing well there then give them the call up for opening day. I don’t think they should disrupt the rookies. Same goes for any team facing the same dillema like KC with Witt or Rodriguez in Seattle