Folty had a terrible ending to his 2020 season — if you even want to call it a season.
The once hard-throwing right-hander was one of the first pieces of the rebuild, and at times he was maddening; other times, he was brilliant. He came over from Houston in a deal that saw Atlanta wave goodbye to fan-favorite Evan Gattis. Foltynewicz was knocked around from 2015 to 2017, but on an uncompetitive team, all the Braves hoped is that he would eventually develop, and it all came together in 2018.
Foltynewicz won 13 games and posted a 2.85 ERA that year, was named an All-Star and was undoubtedly the ace of a young staff. It looked like the Braves had finally found a long-term piece to their rotation. However, the beginning of 2019 could not have gone worse.
It began with a minor injury, but when Folty came back, his velocity was down significantly. He was eventually demoted to Gwinnett in June following a horrendous start in which he gave up eight earned runs to Washington, pushing his ERA to 6.37 on the season. However, he came back with a vengeance.
Folty only allowed 17 earned runs in August and September combined over 47 innings and never gave up over four earned runs in a start. Fans will always remember the meltdown in Game 5 against St. Louis in the 2019 NLDS, but most are quick to forget that Mike was masterful in Game 2, tossing seven innings of shutout ball in a 3-0 Braves win. Nevertheless, it all came crashing down in 2020.
Foltynewicz pitched in an exhibition game against the Marlins. He was noticeably thinner, and his velocity was WAY down. As a result, he was tagged by the Marlins for six earned runs over just 4.1 innings. Fans were concerned, but the team insisted he was fine. Next thing you know, Folty was designated for assignment after just one start against the Rays in which he surrendered six earned runs on four home runs over 3.1 innings.
Then came the injuries and struggles for the rest of the rotation. However, it was telling that the team chose to stick with arms like Tommy Milone, Robbie Erlin, and Josh Tomlin over Foltynewicz. I questioned if he would get a start before the playoffs to see if his velocity was back, but it never happened for him or Newcomb, and we’ve likely seen the last of Folty in a Braves uniform.
Foltynewicz is entering his final year of arbitration after earning over $6 million in salary in 2020 (before they were pro-rated). His 2020 performance certainly won’t help his case in arbitration, but considering how the Braves chose to DFA him so quickly and he never returned, it doesn’t look like they are interested in wasting any offseason dollars on bringing him back.
The Braves have plenty of other priorities to take care of this offseason, and they will need to save every penny they can to continue to improve. Releasing Folty and letting him try to re-invent himself with another organization makes the most sense. I already mentioned this possibility when I planned my dream offseason. Nobody likes to see Foltynewicz’s career as a Brave end like this, but there’s no longer a place for him on this roster.