Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery.
The Atlanta Braves designated right-hander Mike Foltynewicz for assignment on Monday after a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in his regular-season debut.
The move to pull the plug on the 28-year-old is justified by his rocky start to the season — giving up six runs and three home runs in 3 1/3 innings — but it was also a bit of a surprising decision.
Foltynewicz is only two seasons removed from an All-Star Game appearance, finishing eighth in the race for the National League Cy Young Award in 2018.
With that said, despite his shaky start to the campaign, a club like the Yankees may benefit from taking a flier on Foltynewicz and attempting to claim him off waivers.
Before the reasons why New York should give the right-hander a look, here's why the Bombers might not even bother.
Braves' manager Brian Snitker explained after the loss that the right-hander's "stuff hasn't been there" dating back to Atlanta's Summer Camp earlier this month. With reporters including MLB.com's Mark Bowman listening in, Snitker cited a decrease in Foltynewicz's fastball velocity as one of the main reasons why the Braves decided to designate him for assignment.
For reference, last season Foltynewicz's four-seam fastball averaged 94.8 mph. He threw 15 heaters against the Rays on Monday, according to Statcast, averaging 90.9 mph (with a low of 89.6 mph).
That's never a good sign to see a starting pitcher lose that many ticks on the radar gun. A similar situation transpired for New York this weekend in Washington D.C. when left-hander James Paxton — who continues to build up from lower back surgery this offseason — didn't make it out of the second inning in a loss to the Nationals. His fastball velocity was lower than usual on the mound as well.
Factor in Foltynewicz's salary obligations with his struggles last season — including a lengthy demotion to the minors — and perhaps the writing is on the wall for the six-year starter. Why would New York want to get involved when Atlanta evidently felt it was best to move on from the Foltynewicz experience?
In a season where depth will be an integral component in making a deep playoff run, however, Foltynewicz's presence on the waiver wire at the very least warrants consideration.
First of all, and beyond just a change of scenery, the right-hander may benefit from the Yankees' top-notch coaching staff and analytical approach. With new pitching coach Matt Blake, perhaps a few tweaks in Foltynewicz's game could spark improvements right away. Maybe even lead to a few quality seasons out of the right-hander moving forward.
At his best, he's a solid starting pitcher in any rotation. In 2018, Foltynewicz posted a 2.85 ERA while eclipsing the 200-strikeout plateau for the first, and only, time in his career (with 202 on the season through 183 innings pitched).
With a starting rotation filled to the brim in New York, on the off chance this hurler winds up in pinstripes, Foltynewicz likely wouldn't slot into the starting staff automatically. Using the right-hander out of a relief role — an organizational move that would be easier to pull off with an expanded 30-man roster — could be key in bringing his velocity back to the mid-90s.
Just a few days ago New York brought up two right-handed reliever — sending down outfielder Clint Frazier — to bolster depth in the 'pen after six pitchers were used in the club's second game of the season. If available, would coaches prefer to add someone like Foltynewicz rather than using the likes of a prospect or perennial contributor at the minor-league level?
The circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic also could influence the Bombers to make the move. As the Yankees have seen in their own clubhouse — New York continues to wait for closer Aroldis Chapman to return after testing positive for the coronavirus at Summer Camp — keeping a group of talented hurlers at the club's alternate training site could pay huge dividends should the team need reinforcements down the road.
After all, as Aaron Boone explained following Chapman's positive diagnosis a few weeks ago, "this virus does not discriminate." The developing situation with the outbreak within the Marlins' organization is proof of that notion as well.
Who knows whether or not the Yankees will feel the need to add another arm or if they'd prefer to move forward with their current group. It's safe to say that Foltynewicz will receive several calls from different clubs across the league and in all likelihood, it won't be long until he finds a new home.
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