Former Braves All-Star pitcher Mike Foltynewicz was DFA’d recently, but the Chicago Cubs should be wary if they consider acquiring him.
The Chicago Cubs have done well enough with their rotation so far, even without the presence of lefty Jose Quintana. Still, a new and intriguing starting pitching option has just become available. Braves pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, despite his relatively young age and previous success, has been DFA’d after a rough start against the Rays. Atlanta grew tired of Foltynewicz’s inconsistency over the past few years and his drop in velocity.
Foltynewicz took a huge step forward in 2018, becoming the ace of the Braves rotation and placing 8th in Cy Young voting with a 143 ERA+. His WHIP also declined considerably, helped by a career-best 6.4 H9. The only issue is that this season is a massive outlier among his entire body of work thus far.
Folty’s career ERA sits at 4.33, and a majority of his seasons sat near that number. 2019 was a particularly tough year for the righty as he was demoted to Triple-A, but when he came back in August, he seemed to be back in form. From the start of August onward, his ERA was at 2.65, much more like his 2018 campaign, giving the Braves some hope that he’d be a big contributor again in 2020.
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While it may seem hasty to cut ties with an All-Star pitcher after one rough outing, Folty really struggled throughout his Summer Camp performances and, more worryingly, lost around 6 MPH on his average fastball velocity. Any team that picks him up now from Atlanta is paying for a work in progress that needs time at an alternate training facility before jumping back into a big-league rotation.
I don’t think it’s a terrible option for the Cubs to look into Foltynewicz, but there are a few things to worry about. First and foremost, the cost to acquire Folty is too great for a pitcher that requires significant work to get back to form. The Cubs’ best hope would be to wait to see if he’s eventually released by Atlanta and available to bring in on a minor league contract.
More importantly, Foltynewicz in this current state isn’t exactly a better pitcher than any of the Cubs’ current five starters without Quintana. Tyler Chatwood and Alec Mills were both potential question marks, but after Chatwood’s excellent start Sunday and Mills’s quality start Tuesday, I highly doubt he would be offering anything better anytime soon.
Lastly, consider that there are still several free-agent pitchers available in case either of Chatwood or Mills struggles at the back of the rotation. Any of these options would likely be cheaper and more quickly convenient than Foltynewicz if the team needs an acceptable starter to fill in for Quintana.
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I’m very high on Foltynewicz when he’s at his best, but getting him back to that 2018 form seems like a daunting task that may or may not bear fruit. To me, a chance like that is not worth giving too much up for, especially when the Chicago Cubs would be better served with an instant quick fix to their Quintana situation. If they’re going to pursue him, it’s best to wait for a better, cheaper opportunity to do so.