Twins

Michael Fulmer Is the Dessert After A Delicious Trade Deadline

Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins went into the trade deadline with prospect capital burning a hole in their pocket and a clear appetite for pitching. While many fans expected them to go home hungry again, the club understood their assignment and treated themselves to three new arms.

They got an excellent main course filet mignon in the form of starting pitcher Tyler Mahle. He is a meaty serving of playoff-caliber rotation fixture, big enough to feed fans for the rest of this year and 2023. They also grabbed some outstanding garlic mashed potatoes and roasted Brussels sprouts, a delectable side dish in relief star Jorge López. Those two combined make for quite a fantastic meal for Twins faithful to nosh on, and those moves alone would have been enough to call the deadline a relative success.

But then Derek Falvey saw the dessert menu.

As the trade machine restaurant was nearing the end of its operating hours, the lights began to flicker, signifying the last call. And in the dwindling final moments of service hours, the Twins placed an order for one last dish – a vanilla bean créme brulée named Michael Fulmer.

The other two additions were the meal. Fulmer is the dessert that sends the party off on a great note.

The Twins have got to see him ever since he debuted with Detroit Tigers in 2016. They saw the sweet treat that the folks at the nearby table were eating and decided to splurge on one for themselves.

And it’s easy to see what made Fulmer look so sweet. He’s a former Rookie of the Year who’s been healthy over the last couple of seasons, and his peripherals have improved dramatically since transitioning to a permanent relief role. This year, he has a 3.20 ERA in 41 appearances out of Detroit’s bullpen, with a nifty 8.9 K/9 and only a single home run allowed on the season.

Notably, if you take out his last two appearances against the Twins, he would have a sterling 2.13 ERA and even more confidence heading into the previous two months of the season. His success this year stems from a revamped balance to his pitch repertoire, and the Twins think they can add a little sugar to the rim as a garnish by continuing down that route.

Like many bullpen arms that have made their way to Target Field over the years, Fulmer began his career as a starting pitcher, with four usable pitches in his mix. Now that he’s made the permanent transition to reliever, he mostly sticks to a lethal slider. He throws it nearly 65% of the time, in addition to a sinker and 4-seam fastball.

Minnesota’s brass loves somebody with a plus-slider, of course. It’s their go-to when identifying possible pitcher additions, whether at the trade deadline or in the off-season. Ask Sergio Romo. Or Matt Wisler. Or Chris Archer. Repeatedly, we’ve seen that the Twins
simply have an affinity for recipes that lean heavily on sliders.

Fulmer’s slider has been tasty for some time now. Last year was his first season using it as his primary pitch, throwing it 40% of the time. It yielded promising results, with a .243 batting average against and just a .270 slugging percentage allowed. He’s taken it to the next level this year. His slider in 2022 has just a .159 batting average allowed with a Michelin Star-worthy .217 slugging percentage against.

Fulmer had that pitch plated and ready in his first outing with the Twins on Wednesday afternoon. In his first taste of action as a set-up man for a contending team, his slider yielded a groundout, a soft single, and a punch out — with plenty of misses mixed in. With the hulking right-hander in tow for the next two months, the Twins can get some sweet relief on an overtaxed bullpen.

Adding Fulmer and Lopez allows the team to use rookie sensation Jhoan Durán in more of a firefighter role. It also allows the team to use Griffin Jax and struggling veterans Emilio Pagán and Tyler Duffey in lower-leverage situations more frequently.

These new additions also pushed the likes of Joe Smith (4.78 ERA) and Jharel Cotton (2.83 ERA) off the table. While they certainly had their share of solid outings for the Twins (especially Cotton, lately), it felt like the club wanted to be done with that course even though there was still some food on the plate.

But that’s the price you pay when you’re saving room for dessert. There just isn’t room when you take into account the main course (Mahle), a vital side dish (Lopez), and a now necessary sweet treat (Fulmer).

The Twins got their meal. Now they need to feast.

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