In a surprising move, the Atlanta Braves announced that they were designating RHP Mike Foltynewicz for assignment. The Braves are sure to have serious suitors for the former first-round pick, but should the Mariners be one of them?
Mike Foltynewicz and the Atlanta Braves are surely fielding a lot of phone calls right now. After a surprising DFA of one of their former top pitching prospects, most teams are testing the waters for on what acquiring the talented right arm of Foltynewicz will cost them. The Seattle Mariners are no strangers to making trades, especially ones that involve talented arms with the pedigree of a first round pick attached to them. But should they be after Foltynewicz?
Well, there are some obvious points working against their involvement. First and foremost, “Folty” has just the rest of this season and next year of club control remaining. So a team looking to acquire him as a starter would likely get 25-35 starts max from him. Second, the Mariners rotation is “set”. Seattle won’t move Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, or Justin Dunn out of the rotation and they are trying to build the trade value of Taijuan Walker and Kendall Graveman, both of whom may have futures in Seattle. Finally, Folty has a reputation of having a “bad attitude” and placing that attitude in a new clubhouse, particularly one as young as Seattle’s, might be asking for trouble.
But despite these issues, arms like Foltynewicz don’t come available often. After all, it was only back in 2018 when Folty finished eigth in the NL Cy Young voting where he posted a 2.85 ERA and punched out 202 batters in 183 innings, good for a 3.37 FIP and a 4.0 bWAR. But he would crash back down to earth in 2019, throwing just 117 innings while posting a 4.97 FIP and just 105 strikeouts.
Stuff wise, Foltynewicz has the ability to be a premier starter in this league. His fastballs sit in the mid-90s and both his slider and curveballs were nearly unhittable in 2018. One of the areas the Mariners have excelled is in making tweaks to a pitchers pitch selection and Foltynewicz did see a major increase in the number of sliders he threw in 2019. In 2018, his breakout year, Folty’s primary pitch was his 4-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 40% of the time. In 2019, that was down to 26.3% of the time, as was his average velocity (96.3 in 2018, 94.8 in 19).
Foltynewicz is a fascinating arm and despite his red flags, a team like Seattle should be interested in snagging him. However, Seattle can only trade from their 60-man player pool (unless the Braves agree to a player to be named later deal to be completed in the off-season), and the Braves are in win now mode. As we discussed in the Clint Frazier trade piece, Seattle doesn’t have a lot of “win now” players. At least, not ones they’d give up for just over a year of Foltynewicz.
However, Jerry Dipoto‘s best strength is his creativity, so if he’s interested in Foltynewicz, he’ll find a way to get involved in the negotiations. At the end of the day, Dipoto should be talking to the Braves, as he should with just about any player that becomes available. But Foltynewicz turns 29-years-old in October and with just one year of club control remaining after 2020, don’t expect to see Dipoto move any potentially significant pieces for Foltynewicz.