Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

It’s only Tuesday afternoon, but there’s been what feels like a month’s worth of news in the last 36 hours. The Marlins are dealing with a massive outbreak of coronavirus, the Red Sox are in 5th place in their division, the Nationals players are pretty much revolting, and the Braves shocked everyone last night when they announced that they were designating a former All-Star pitcher for assignment.

Mike ‘Folty’ Foltynewicz, started for the Braves in Monday’s game against the Rays, allowing 6 earned runs over 3 1/3 innings. He struck out 3 batters, but also allowed 3 home runs – including back-to-back bombs by Hunter Renfroe and Joey Wendle – and walked 4. He was informed that he was being DFA-ed towards the end of the game. When announcing the move later last night, manager Brian Snitker stated plainly, “The stuff hasn’t been there.”

Foltynewicz, who was drafted by the Astros as the 19th overall pick in 2010, was once regarded as a top-50 overall prospect. He was traded to Atlanta in Jaunary 2015, and had a breakout season in 2018, posting a 2.85 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 183 innings, all as a starter. He finished 8th in the National League Cy Young voting that season.

But Foltynewicz has been dealing with arm problems, missed a portion of last season, and his velocity has declined steeply in just a few years. His fastball, which used to regularly hit 98 mph, couldn’t reach 95 mph in 2019; according to MLB, last night, his fastball averaged 89.3 and topped out at 92.9. The Rays lost 14-5, and Folty didn’t make it out of the 4th inning.

Despite the already-shortened season and the looming question of whether the season can even be played to completion after the Marlins news yesterday morning, the Atlanta Braves seem to be in it to win it. After all, Folty finished 2019 with a 1.73 ERA over his last seven starts of the season, before getting shelled in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Cardinals. Unfortunately for him, this year, the Braves don’t have the luxury of a 162-game season to figure him out.

The Red Sox are an obvious choice to pursue Folty, given the abysmal state of their pitching. Unlike most of the arms they currently have, many of whom are already underperforming, even by the low standards set for them, he’s at least pitched effectively in the past, which means he might be able to do so again. The righty has started at least 15 games every year since 2015, as well as 20 career relief appearances between 2014-2017. But it is worth noting that the Braves were quick to cut him loose. They’ve spent enough time with him that it’s not a decision they’d make lightly about someone who was once their Game 1 postseason starter and poised to be a long-term centerpiece of their rotation.

Ultimately, the Red Sox should attempt to acquire Folty. The market for arms is pretty bare, but these beggars can’t be choosers. Best-case scenario, he figures it out here and suddenly the Red Sox have a somewhat productive arm on the mound with years of Major League experience. Worse-case scenario, they have another arm and it’s a 60-game season that will soon be in the rearview mirror.

Besides, at this point, they can’t really get any worse. (Knock on wood.)


Photo: Sports Illustrated

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