Tigers trade reliever Michael Fulmer to the Twins for prospect

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Minneapolis — It had to be the most uncomfortable walk of his life. 

Michael Fulmer, with cameras recording his every step, walked with a group of Minnesota Twins officials from the Tigers clubhouse to his new digs — the Twins' clubhouse.

"This time of year creates some awkwardness, especially when you trade within your division," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. 

Moments earlier he facilitated a Zoom call with general manager Al Avila, where they informed him that after seven-plus years with the Tigers, he'd been traded down the hall, to the Twins. 

"He was emotional," Hinch said. "Obviously, he understood. They see their names in print sometimes and their friends and family talk about it. But it's still a shock to change teams. He wanted to be happy because he's going to a contending team. But, by no means was he racing out of here.

"He would've loved to stay. It's a weird feeling. You hug it out, appreciate everything he did for us. But it's a fast goodbye."

Twins manager Rocco Baldelli told the large media assemblage that Fulmer was going to get ready for the game and would address the trade afterward.

The Tigers traded outfielder Robbie Grossman for Low-A pitching prospect Kris Anglin on Monday. For Fulmer, they got 24-year-old, Double-A starter Sawyer Gipson-Long.

"We think we are picking up a pitcher we feel good about," Avila said. "He's starting in Double-A and we think he has a good enough mix of pitches that he has a chance to stay as a starter."

Gipson-Long, the Twins' sixth-round pick in 2019, features a low-to-mid-90s fastball with a sweeping slider and a developing changeup. Avila said Gipson-Long will report to Erie, but projects to start at Triple-A Toledo next season.

Which means he could be an option to pitch in Detroit at some point in 2023.

Avila said he did have conversations with teams on relievers Gregory Soto, Andrew Chafin, Alex Lange and Joe Jimenez. 

"But not as many conversations as the media made it out to be," he said. "There were some. We just decided that the possible return we talked about with those clubs did not move the needle for us at this point."

Avila said several teams called about starter Tarik Skubal, as well. Again, they weren't offering a tempting enough package of players. 

"It's not like we were calling teams and trying to force the issue," Avila said. "If the right deal was there, we'd have to have an open mind and look at it. We didn't feel the return would help us as much as we would've liked."

Fulmer knew this day was coming. He talked about it a week ago. 

"There is so much to be grateful for,” Fulmer said. “For this organization, for these teammates, the guys in this clubhouse, you guys (media). The Tigers gave me the opportunity to start my career out of Double-A. I was 22. I’m very appreciative and grateful for everything everybody has done in this organization for me.

“It’s been a long road, a bumpy road. Hopefully, we can work things out, whatever they have on the business side. I know this game is a business. Whatever the front office sees fit to move this team forward, I’m aboard.”

From Rookie of the Year in 2016, to All-Star in 2017, to missing nearly two years with knee and elbow surgeries, Fulmer reinvented himself as a reliable late-inning reliever.

"This has been tough," Hinch said. "Losing Robbie yesterday and Michael today, two of the stand-up pros we have in our clubhouse. I told both that they deserve this opportunity to play in an environment of winning and in a playoff chase. 

"I just regret it's not here. I wanted it to be here for both, especially for Michael. He's paid his dues in this organization."

Hinch was asked if he expected to lose more than two players at the deadline. 

"I'm not in every conversation, so I don't know what was available," he said. "I know they worked really through some nights. But I continue to remind everybody the reason we are in this situation is that we haven't won enough. We have to be accountable for that."

Avila said the goal in all trade scenarios is to acquire high-end talent, impact talent. He wasn't necessarily on the hunt for offensive players. But that will be one of the focus points this offseason. 

"There's still options there going into the offseason," Avila said. "Adding hitting talent could come from trades in the offseason and quite frankly, it could come through free agency, as well.

"Two things on the agenda going into the offseason: One, get guys healthy. And two, evaluate everything going forward so we know how we can configure the club to make it better and what our needs are.

"Improving the offense is one of them."