Yankees could make offer Tigers can't refuse for Michael Fulmer

Tigers have a young, cheap ace, presumably a high-priced asset; do Yankees want to pay up?

Anthony Fenech
Detroit Free Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Al Avila put on his realtor hat on Tuesday afternoon.

The Detroit Tigers general manager was talking about houses. A nice house, presumably. Maybe a colonial.

Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer in the dugout during the second inning on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Comerica Park.

“Let’s say you have an asset,” Avila said. “Your house. And somebody likes it. You don’t have it for sale. But if somebody says, ‘Man, I really like your house’ and they keep on pursuing you about your house, at some point, you might end up selling it.”

In Avila’s analogy, right-handed pitcher Michael Fulmer is the house. And though the Tigers haven’t put Fulmer on the trade market, teams have passed by during the first two days at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings and thought, “We’d really like to buy that house.”

A day after Avila said the Tigers would listen to offers on their young ace, a couple of suitors emerged. And at least one figures to have the prospects to acquire Fulmer.

The Yankees have checked in on Fulmer, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. So, too, have the Rangers, according to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News.

“With Fulmer, we’re not actively pursuing a trade,” Avila said. “A couple teams have expressed interest and all we’re doing is listening and that’s really it at this point. I would say that, for us, it pays to listen and see what’s out there.”

More:What Tigers may be able to get from Yankees in a Michael Fulmer trade

The Tigers would be looking for a strong package of top-level prospects, according to a person with knowledge of the Tigers' talks.

The Yankees, who are poised to compete for the American League pennant next season and seem motivated to make further win-now moves this week, have a number of prospects they could offer.

The Rangers do not and those talks did not advance far, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

Speaking inside the team’s suite at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort, Avila estimated there were only a handful of teams capable of offering the Tigers the type of package they desire to part with Fulmer.

Michael Fulmer pitches against the Giants in the first inning July 4, 2017 at Comerica Park.

Fulmer, 24, has performed like a front-line pitcher in his first two seasons in the Major Leagues but is rehabilitating from ulnar nerve transposition surgery in his right elbow. Fulmer is scheduled to begin a throwing program this week in Lakeland, Fla. and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. In 2017, Fulmer was an American League All-Star. In 2016, he was the AL Rookie of the Year Award winner.

Fulmer’s contract status also is attractive, as he is under team control for the next four seasons. The reason the Tigers would consider trading Fulmer is because they expect him to eventually be expensive in the arbitration process. Further injecting the farm system with fresh talent could speed up the rebuilding process.

 The Yankees' farm system remains stocked with upper-echelon prospects and a wild-card  prospect is highly regarded outfielder Clint Frazier, who has been moved out of the team’s outfield rotation after the acquisition of slugger Giancarlo Stanton.

The team’s top two prospects, middle infielder Gleyber Torres and outfielder Esteban Florial, are thought to be untouchable but certainly could be included in a package for a pitcher like Fulmer. New York also has prospect pitchers Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams at their disposal.

Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer waits to be relieved in the third inning on Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo.

Though the expected recovery rate of Fulmer's surgery is extremely high, Avila said, it’s likely Fulmer’s value has dipped since mid-season, when he was rumored to be a target of many teams.

On Monday, it seemed very unlikely he would be traded. On Tuesday, it remained unlikely. But there are teams with the farm system firepower to acquire Fulmer and one reportedly has checked in.

Still, Avila was stern in saying the Tigers have not placed a “For sale” sign on Fulmer just yet.

“He’s an exciting young pitcher that we’d love to have,” Avila said. “So for us to trade him, it would have to be something that a club would really have to step up and have something significant that we would feel would make us a much better organization moving forward.”

Contact Anthony Fenech: afenech@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @anthonyfenech. Download our Tigers Xtra app for free on Apple and Android devices!