The Phillies made an interesting low-risk, potentially useful move on Super Bowl Sunday, signing former Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull to a one-year contract.
The deal is worth $2 million but Turnbull could earn a total of $4 million, according to MLB.com.
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Turnbull is 31 years old and was non-tendered by the Tigers earlier this offseason. The right-hander was drafted in the second round by Detroit in 2014 when Dave Dombrowski was leading that front office.
Turnbull was quite effective in the shortened 2020 season and the first two months of 2021 before a career-altering injury. In 20 starts over that time, he went 8-6 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, allowing only four home runs in 106⅔ innings. The highlight was a no-hitter on May 18, 2021 in Seattle.
He made just three more starts that year before undergoing Tommy John surgery, not returning to the majors until April 2023.
Turnbull made only seven starts with the Tigers last season. He was optioned to the minor leagues twice and disputed both options because of injury. The Tigers sent him to the minors in May but he was quickly transferred to the injured list after describing neck discomfort.
Nearly three months later, Detroit finally activated Turnbull and again tried to option him to the minor leagues, but he reported a cracked toenail that led instead to another IL stint.
When the season ended, Turnbull was awarded a full year of service time for 2023.
As such, Turnbull will be eligible for free agency after 2024 as opposed to after 2025.
The Phillies are taking a low-cost flier on him as starting pitching depth. Their rotation, barring injury, is set with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, Taijuan Walker and Cristopher Sanchez. Behind those five, the Phils have Turnbull, Dylan Covey, Nick Nelson, Max Castillo and left-hander Kolby Allard. One of those five could earn a spot on the Opening Day roster as the long man, while the others figure to remain stretched out as starters at Triple A in case a need arises.
Turnbull mostly utilizes his cutter, sinker and slider with occasional changeups and curveballs. In his best season, the sinker averaged 95 mph. Lefties have hit him hard in two of his four seasons while righties have hit just .237/.325/.359.
These were the kinds of deals Dombrowksi described earlier in the offseason when laying out the Phillies' path after re-signing Nola. Without a glaring hole in one particular spot on the roster, the Phils' front office has been monitoring the market for potential value deals. With so many players still unsigned, there could still be more tinkering for depth purposes.
To make room for Turnbull on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated pitcher McKinley Moore for assignment.