Tigers agree to terms with Mike Pelfrey
Four days after signing a frontline starter, the Tigers have found the veteran they were seeking to fill out their rotation, agreeing to terms with right-hander Mike Pelfrey on a two-year contract worth $16 million, MLB.com has learned.
The deal is pending a physical. The Tigers have not commented on the agreement, first reported by CBSSports.com. An official announcement could be made as early as Sunday in Nashville when Tigers officials arrive for baseball’s Winter Meetings.
The Tigers’ interest in Pelfrey goes as far back as 2005, when he was a highly touted right-hander out of Wichita State University. David Chadd, then in his first year as Tigers scouting director and living in Wichita, had a closeup look at Pelfrey as a Shocker.
The Mets drafted Pelfrey that year with the ninth overall selection, one pick ahead of Detroit. The Tigers selected high school outfielder Cameron Maybin. Now, it appears they’ll have both, acquiring each of them less than a month apart.
Pelfrey, who turns 32 years old next month, spent the past three seasons in Minnesota, where he posted a 6-11 record and 4.26 ERA over 30 starts in 2015. He allowed 198 hits over 164 2/3 innings with 45 walks and 86 strikeouts. He had the lowest home-run ratio among qualified AL pitchers, allowing just 11 homers, but he also ranked third in the AL with 12 hit batters.
Pelfrey has battled back from season-ending injuries in two of the last four years, missing most of 2012 to Tommy John surgery before a shoulder injury and nerve irritation in his elbow limited him to five starts in 2014. He delivered similar comeback seasons in 2013 and 2015: High hit totals, low home-run damage and better metrics than results.
Pelfrey looked very good early in the year, boasting a 5-2 record and 2.28 ERA through his first 11 starts. A pair of eight-run barrages in June sent his season spiraling with a 1-9 record and 5.62 ERA over his final 19 outings, lasting through the sixth inning in just seven of those matchups.
Pelfrey seemed to physically wear down after essentially a lost 2014. Yet his fastball velocity jumped from an average of 90.8 mph during his handful of 2014 starts to 93.3 last year, according to Fangraphs. It marked his highest average for any full season in his career.
Pelfrey also reportedly went to a split-finger changeup, resulting in less reliance on his fastball.
It’s not the glamour signing that Jordan Zimmermann was, but it gives the Tigers the veteran innings-eater they were seeking and one who has a chance for a bounceback year, while leaving a rotation spot open long-term for one of their young starters. Pelfrey will join Justin Verlander, Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez in the Tigers rotation, with the fifth spot a competition among young starters Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Shane Greene, Kyle Lobstein .Buck Farmer and Michael Fulmer.