Phillies Add More Pitching Depth by Signing Spencer Turnbull, Who Once Threw a No-Hitter
When Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski was the President and General Manager of the Detroit Tigers a decade ago, he oversaw their 2014 draft.
In the second round of that draft, Dombrowski selected an unheralded pitcher from the University of Alabama named Spencer Turnbull.
A decade later, the two are reuniting with the Phillies.
According to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand, pending a physical, the Phillies have inked Turnbull to a one-year deal worth $2 million with escalators in the form of performance bonuses:
Spencer Turnbull has a one-year deal with the Phillies, per source. It’s for $2 million with another $2 million in performance bonuses. @JonHeyman was on it.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) February 11, 2024
The Phillies have not confirmed the trade, likely pending the physical and a necessary move to DFA someone from the 40-man roster to make space.
This is the latest pitching depth move for the Phillies, who were bereft of starting pitching options a season ago and were fortunate to get through the season thanks to the sudden emergence of Cristopher Sanchez and mostly good health for the starting staff.
Turnbull, 31, is 12-29 with a 4.55 ERA and a 1.355 WHIP in 61 appearances, 60 of them starts, in parts of five seasons with the Tigers, He missed a sixth season (2022) while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Last season, Turnbull made only seven starts for the Tigers, and wasn’t very effective. He threw just 31 innings, going 1-4 with a 7.26 ERA and an unsightly 1.677 WHIP. Never a big strikeout pitcher, he only struck out 24 batters while walking 15:
Congrats to everyone watching the Super Bowl tonight but for me it’s watching 2021 Spencer Turnbull. pic.twitter.com/crCv2SlP13
— Jack Fritz (@JackFritzWIP) February 11, 2024
Turnbull missed most of the season with injuries not related to returning from the Tommy John surgery. He dealt with a neck fracture, and an injury that sounds like it came from the 76ers injury list – an avulsed toenail.
When he wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer by the Tigers in November, Turnbull told the Detroit News that he was finally healthy and looking forward to the next stop in his career.
“This last year was by far the most challenging year of my career both mentally and physically,” he said. “But in the end, I am still very thankful for how it all turned out. My neck and foot are now fully recovered, and I feel healthier than ever both mentally and physically. … I finally feel strong and pain-free again throwing a baseball and I am very hopeful and excited for what the future holds.”
Turnbull made 30 starts for the Tigers in 2019 and improved in the pandemic-shortened season of 2020. Then he got off to a great start in 2021, which included a no-hitter in May against the Seattle Mariners.
HE’S DONE IT! SPENCER TURNBULL HAS THROWN A NO HITTER! pic.twitter.com/r41uNB9Puh
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) May 19, 2021
He was 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA and a 0.980 WHIP in 50 innings (nine starts). But he only made three starts after the no-no, leading to the surgery, and waited nearly two years to pitch in the majors again last season.
The Phillies are hoping he follows the trend of pitchers returning to form in their second season after Tommy John surgery – and he may have to start the season in Triple A to really find out if that’s the case.
Turnbull does have an option left, so he can be shuttled back and forth to Lehigh Valley, but as a player with at least five years’ experience, he has the right to refuse an option. However, it’s likely that a condition of this signing was that he waive that right of refusal so he can serve as a depth piece for the Phillies.
Turnbull joins a group with other recent additions Kolby Allard and Max Castillo, holdovers Dylan Covey and Nick Nelson, and highly touted prospect Mick Abel as rotational depth that will battle for the No. 6 spot in Spring Training, and possibly for the role of long man out of the bullpen.
Pitchers and catchers report to Clearwater to kick off Spring Training on Wednesday.