Detroit Tigers trade deadline analysis: Sawyer Gipson-Long

The Detroit Tigers made a move at the trade deadline to get something for nothing. The team went out and sent Michael Fulmer to the Minnesota Twins to acquire right-handed pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long. While Fulmer walked across the tunnel to the Twins clubhouse, Gipson-Long will have a move ahead of him, coming to his new organization.

The Detroit Tigers realized that Fulmer would be on his way out after the 2022 season ended as a free agent. With that in mind, the team opted to flip Fulmer for whatever they could get in return. In this case, the Twins mustered up Gipson-Long as the best available option in the eyes of the Tigers.

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The low-down on Gipson-Long should lead the Tigers faithful to think that they got a solid addition. Contrary to Kris Anglin, who was acquired in the Robbie Grossman trade, Gipson-Long has a 6-foot-4, 225-pound frame that he uses to his advantage.

Also, contrary to Anglin, Gipson-Long was a sixth-round draft pick in 2019 from Mercer University in Georgia. The former collegiate arm has made the jump into the Twins organization, reaching the Double-A level, likely meaning he will be headed to Erie, Pennsylvania, to join the Erie Seawolves roster.

Let's dive deeper into newly acquired Detroit Tigers pitcher Sawyer Gipson-Long.

One of the pieces to Gipson-Long's make-up that does relate to Anglin is that he's going to be a Chris Fetter project. At the very least, Gipson-Long is a mid-90s fastball guy with a plus-slider and a feel for a changeup. The fastball/slider combination is what caught the eyes of Fetter, likely, making him think he can do something with Gipson-Long.

Looking into Gipson-Long and his delivery, it's a slow and deliberate motion. He starts with both feet pointing into the third base dugout but addresses home from the wind-up. He steps back towards first base, uses a larger leg kick, and then drives down the mound.

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The one thing that stands out to me early on is that there's not much hip tilt. I'd like to see the Tigers work with Gipson-Long on his mobility to help him move better down the mound. With a bigger frame, it's understandable why he's a bit stiffer down the mound but still has room for improvement.

It's a shorter arm action, working from a three-quarters arm slot with the upper body leaning heavily out in front of his hip. He has a lot of trunk tilt forward down the mound, easily seen after watching a few pitches. There's room to improve the mechanics, but that's what the Player Development staff is for.

Here's a better look at Sawyer Gipson-Long's pitch mix.

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Gipson-Long works a fastball up into the mid-90s. He can spot up and work both sides of the plate with command that's average to above average. The fastball is firm and jumps out of the hand from a loose arm through his delivery. It felt like it could be a little flat from the clips I saw, but it was firm nonetheless.

The bread and butter pitch for the right-handed pitcher is his slider. The pitch has good tilt with depth to it. It's a high-tilt slider that gets plenty of whiffs, and he throws it often. At times the pitch can be more high-tilt with less sweep and appear a little slurvy, but the pitch still gets the job done.

He also showed a changeup with some arm-side fade to it. But the fastball/slider combination continues to be how Gipson-Long attacks hitters. Sometimes, the slider can appear as more of a primary pitch, but it misses barrels and induces weak contact.

What is there to note about Sawyer Gipson-Long's future?

Gipson-Long has spent the 2022 season with the High-A and Double-A affiliates. In total, Gipson-Long logged 87.1 innings, appearing in 18 games, 17 of them being starts. Gipson-Long has a 4.23 ERA between the two affiliates in 2022 and a 1.12 WHIP.

He punched out 87 hitters and was able to be effective. So as he gets in with the Tigers, the expectation will be that he will be able to settle in with the Tigers Double-A squad. For the time being, he will remain a starting pitcher, being one of the options that the Tigers can trot out there in the minors.

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He reminds me of Garrett Hill or Reese Olson, who are both in the Tigers system and have pushed towards the big leagues, making big strides with the team. I'd venture to say that Gipson-Long may end up as a reliever down the line.

It's just another option for the Tigers if they want to move Gipson-Long out of the starter role and make him into a reliever. This likely comes down to his development. If he becomes more of a slider-first option out of the bullpen, it may not be the worst thing in the world.

The Tigers nearly had to explore that option with Alex Faedo when he lost feel for the fastball with the Erie Seawolves a few years back. There are pitchers out there who do it, so it's not crazy to suggest. But the Tigers will employ him as a starter, and right now, his upside as a big-league starter on this team is still more than alive.

It's not to say he's about to go out and win a Cy Young award, but rather that he will be able to reach the big leagues and be a starter. It may not be the best return, but the Tigers got something for nothing, so it should be listed as a victory.

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  1. Once again we traded our best for a nothing pitcher. I simply loved Fulmer and Grossman- we got nothing. What a shame Avila isn’t gone gone gone

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