The Red Sox are desperate for starting pitching, and a 2018 All-Star just became available.
The Braves on Monday designated for assignment right-hander Mike Foltynewicz after watching him allow six runs — including three homers — in just 3.1 innings of a 14-5 loss to the Rays.
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Foltynewicz is only two years removed from going 13-10 with a 2.85 ERA and a career-high 202 strikeouts, earning him an eighth-place finish in the NL Cy Young race. He fell to 8-6, 4.54 last year and made two playoff starts — one outstanding, one a disaster — before exhibiting decreased velocity during spring training 2.0. The Braves gave him one chance, but his fastball topped out at 92 mph on Monday after averaging 95 mph last year and nearly 97 mph in 2018.
"After the last couple outings in, we wanted to give it a go here and it was the same," manager Brian Snitker told reporters, including Mark Bowman of MLB.com. "We didn't see enough increase in the velocity. That's who he's been. He's been a stuff guy for the entire time we've had him. The stuff hasn't been there."
The Red Sox can't be picky right now. They've acquired four pitchers in the last two weeks coming off seasons with ERAs roughly between 6.00 and 10.00. Even with diminished velocity, Foltynewicz at least has a track record. And at just 28 years old, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander will assuredly earn a look from someone in these pitching-starved times.
It could be the Red Sox, though they've got to decide if Foltynewicz fits their payroll. He'll make the prorated portion of his $6.43 million salary this year, and then he's got one more year of arbitration eligibility remaining before becoming a free agent.
After a slow start with Atlanta in 2019 that included a demotion to Triple-A, Foltynewicz posted a 1.73 ERA over his final seven starts before throwing seven shutout innings in an NLDS Game 2 victory over the Cardinals. He took the ball in the decisive Game 5 and was rocked, allowing seven runs while retiring only one batter.
The Braves started the season with a deep rotation, but right-hander Felix Hernandez opted out of the season and left-hander Cole Hamels is on the 45-day injured list with a triceps injury. Atlanta is always flush with pitching, but its reserves aren't as deep beyond ace Mike Soroka and returning 17-game winner Max Fried, throwing up another red flag over the Foltynewicz move.
Still, the Red Sox can't be beggars. With 19-game winner Eduardo Rodriguez recovering from myocarditis after a bout with the coronavirus, they're left with a rotation that includes Martin Perez at No. 2 starter and Ryan Weber at No. 3 behind Nathan Eovaldi, with openers in the four and five spots.
Even after getting rocked by Tampa, Foltynewicz can't be any worse. The Braves have seven days either to trade him or waive him. Atlanta hopes he clears waivers so he can be sent to minor league camp to rediscover his fastball, but Foltynewicz has the right to decline that assignment and become a free agent.