Pittsburgh Pirates: Five Underrated Free Agents Still on the Market

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates / Justin K. Aller/GettyImages
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Michael Fulmer

Michael Fulmer received the American League's 2016 Rookie of the Year and made the all-star game the following season. After struggling in 2018 and undergoing Tommy John surgery, eliminating him for 2019 and nearly all of 2020, Fulmer's long-term future was up in the air entering 2021, but he re-invented himself as a reliever.

As a reliever in 2021, Fulmer worked to a 2.53 ERA, 3.28 FIP, and 1.26 WHIP. He had a 27.4% strikeout rate along with an outstanding 6.2% walk rate. Plus, his 0.9 HR/9 was another solid mark in his season. Fulmer worked himself in the Tigers' closer role by the end of the season and continued to work fairly well into the first half of 2022.

Fulmer's first 34 innings of the season saw him post a 2.38 ERA, 3.35 FIP, and 1.12 WHIP. While his walk rate spiked to 12.7%, he still had a solid 23.9% strikeout rate and cut his HR/9 down to just .26. But the wheels started to fall off for Fulmer after the All-Star Break. In the remaining 29.2 innings Fulmer would work, he would manage just a 4.55 ERA, 3.82 FIP, and 1.65 WHIP. Now granted, he did run into some terrible luck, indicated by his .391 batting average on balls in play, but Fulmer's strikeout rate dipped to 20.1% while his HR/9 jumped back to 0.91-per-9. His walk rate came down to a much more manageable 7.5% rate, but it was about the only silver lining in Fulmer's second half.

Overall, it was a weird season for Fulmer. The right-hander was still above average at limiting hard contact, though he was much better in 2021. He's still a potential low-risk free agent to pursue. Fulmer could fill in a set-up role for the right price. He'll only be entering his age-30 campaign, and adding another layer of bullpen help should be one more thing the Pirates do.

Like Moore, it's a surprise to see Michael Fulmer still lingering on the free agent market. Although he wasn't the most premier reliever available, he's displayed he can be a quality back-of-the-bullpen arm. He's definitely a player the Pirates should at least kick the tires on.

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