Chicago Cubs News: Michael Fulmer signing solidifies bullpen

Sep 20, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Michael Fulmer (52) pitches
Sep 20, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Twins relief pitcher Michael Fulmer (52) pitches / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

There was a belief that the Chicago Cubs may be close to signing a reliever to bolster their bullpen and we now have confirmation of the move.

Fulmer made his Major League debut with the Detroit Tigers in 2016 and appeared to be trending toward being one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Fulmer posted a 3.06 ERA in 2016 followed by a 3.83 ERA in 2017. After struggling in 2018 with a 4.69 ERA in 24 starts, Fulmer missed the entire 2019 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Fulmer returned in 2020 but struggled once again as a starting pitcher as he posted an 8.78 ERA in 10 starts.

Over the course of the past two seasons, Fulmer has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen and has revitalized his career. Fulmer posted a 2.97 ERA in 52 appearances with the Tigers in 2021 and followed that up with a 3.39 ERA last season while splitting time between the Tigers and Minnesota Twins.

The success that Fulmer has had over the past two seasons can be tied to his reliance on his slider. In 2021, Fulmer used his slider over 39% of the time and that was the highest mark of his career. Fulmer turned to his slider at an even more frequent rate last season as he used it over 63% of the time. His fastball usage dropped to under 18% over that same timeframe. Expect the Cubs to find the middle ground with Fulmer in regard to his slider usage as he works within the team's pitching infrastructure.

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Among the right-handed relief pitchers that were still available on the free-agent market, there is no question that Fulmer was the best option remaining. In reviewing the Cubs' need in the bullpen, Fulmer was not frequently mentioned considering the belief that the team was targeting a left-handed relief pitcher. Andrew Chafin remains on the market but it would seem that his price would now have to come down drastically in order for the team to entertain the idea of a reunion.