The Cubs need to address the bullpen this winter, something they’ve typically done with low-cost veteran additions. One such pitcher this past season was righty Michael Fulmer, the former Rookie of the Year starter with the Tigers who battled injuries and poor performance before finding new life as a reliever. Signed to a one-year, $4 million deal last offseason, Fulmer had some ugly outings in the early going before eventually becoming one of the team’s most trusted relievers.
He won’t be able to capitalize on that improvement next season, however, as the Cubs announced Thursday that Fulmer underwent a UCL revision surgery and is not expected to pitch in 2024.
His absence down the stretch compounded the loss of Adbert Alzolay, forcing David Ross to move his other relievers up an inning or two. Fulmer made just one appearance of less than one inning after August 24 due to a recurring forearm strain and it appeared at the time that he may have been rushed back as a result of Alzolay’s injury. That put way too much stress on a unit that was not sufficiently improved at the trade deadline.
Though several Cubs pitchers were able to bounce back somewhat quickly from their own forearm strains, such diagnoses are often precursors of elbow trouble. That appears to have been the case with Fulmer, though we obviously don’t know whether this is something that was missed in the original diagnosis or that popped up once he returned. It’s also possible the 30-year-old was aware of the potential risks and opted to resume pitching anyway.
This isn’t a direct loss for the Cubs since Fulmer wasn’t under contract for next season, but it’s another example of how you can never have enough pitching. That’s particularly true for the bullpen, which can be incredibly fickle even if everyone is healthy. Here’s to hoping Fulmer makes a full recovery and to Hoyer not flipping price tags to find the biggest markdowns this winter.