Just over a year ago the Mets and Tigers made a deal at the deadline that sent slugger Yoenis Cespedes to New York and top-prospect Michael Fulmer to Detroit. In 2015, Cespedes carried the Mets to a National League pennant while the Tigers finished a staggering 20.5 games behind the Royals, good enough for dead last in the AL Central.
When the two teams take the field tonight at Comerica Park, it will be hard to remember where these teams were just 10 months ago. Currently, the Tigers are charging up the standings, led by an underrated offense (4th in the AL in runs scored), a revitalized Justin Verlander and, of course, Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Fulmer.
Fulmer is 9-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 17 starts and a 1.08 WHIP. He has dazzled throughout his first season in the bigs with a plus fastball that sits around 95 MPH and a nasty slider. With Jordan Zimmerman sidelined for all of July, Fulmer has been the glue that has held this Detroit team together. With Zimmerman back, the Tigers are poised to make a run at a playoff berth and could be a scary team in October if Verlander, Zimmerman and Fulmer are healthy.
The Mets, who at the start of the season were the darlings of many media outlets to return to the World Series, are scuffling. Duda, Wright and Harvey are out for the season and the team is 8 GB of the NL East leading Nationals and 1 GB of the second Wild Card position. While Jay Bruce was a nice acquisition, the injury to Yoenis Cespedes and the ensuing mayhem around his decision to play golf while nursing a quad injury that landed him on the DL, is palm-to-face type of material. The Mets have been so dreadful this year with Runners In Scoring Position that they are hardly above the Mendoza line, .207. That is 17 points behind the Philadelphia Phillies, who are some sort of quasi MLB/AAA team.
When the teams square off tonight it will be Verlander against Syndergaard in a stellar match-up. If the Mets can survive this series in Detroit they have a fortuitous nine games in a row against teams the Diamondbacks and Padres and they could work themselves into a favorable position before mid-August. The Tigers will look to capitalize on the Mets before heading out to Seattle and the newly revamped Texas Rangers.
The full evaluation of the Fulmer for Cespedes swap will likely not be complete for a few more years, but this series and the next eight weeks will certainly shed some more light on the topic. Enjoy the weekend.