The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants rocked the baseball world with blockbuster deals this week for All-Star outfielders Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran, respectively. Both deals should help those division-leading clubs in the postseason as much as they will in the regular season. In contrast, the Detroit Tigers’ six-player deal today with the Seattle Mariners was designed more for the 162-game regular-season pennant race than it was for a potential AL postseason matchup.
The Tigers did that in acquiring starting pitcher Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from the Mariners in exchange for left-handed pitcher Charlie Furbush, minor league third baseman Francisco Martinez, minor league outfielder Casper Wells and another prospect to be named. The announcements were made by Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski and Mariners VP and GM Jack Zduriencik.
The Tigers needed to do something to bolster the pitching staff to give them their best chance of winning the division, and this move improves both the rotation and the bullpen. The Tigers’ fifth starters this year had a combined record of 4-16 and the acquisition of Fister should at least help them get closer to a .500 team at that spot in the rotation. The Tigers also called up top prospect Jacob Turner to make one start on Saturday with the intent of optioning him right back to Triple-A afterward. However, don’t be misled, it’s also an important audition for the Tigers’ best pitching prospect.
Dombrowski and Zduriencik hooked up at the deadline two years ago when the Tigers acquired Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners. Washburn went on to go 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA, then had to have knee surgery and didn’t return to the major leagues. This deal is much different, as Fister and Pauley are much younger with little to no injury risk.
This was a solid trade for the Tigers in this pennant race. The move probably doesn’t help them if they get to the playoffs for matchups against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers or Angels, but this deal is more focused on the Tigers trying to get there, and fending off the Indians, White Sox and Twins in the meantime. Fister probably won’t start a postseason game for the Tigers, and Pauley won’t have as much playoff impact as Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde. But you have to get there first and this deal helps them do that.
The Mariners acquired one of the Tigers’ top position prospects in Martinez -- he was the key to the deal for them. Seattle also got decent depth in the form of an extra outfielder in Wells and a fifth starter or long reliever in Furbush.
Here is the breakdown of the players involved in the deal:
Fister, 27, immediately upgrades the fifth position of the Tigers' rotation. He was 3-12 this year for the last-place Mariners, but that was with an impressive ERA of 3.33 in 21 starts. He’s pitched 146 innings with a WHIP of 1.171. The last three years for the Mariners he was 12-30 with an ERA of 3.81 pitching 378 innings for them over that span. The expectation of improved run support and better back-end protection in the bullpen should help him become a .500 pitcher for the Tigers, which would be a big improvement from the 4-16 record Detroit has gotten from that spot this year. Fister is a competitor who doesn’t overpower hitters rather gets by with pitching to contact with an effective sinker and a good changeup. He will battle you and pounds the strike zone with below-average stuff.
Pauley, 28, has put it together this year for the Mariners. At the time of the deal he was 5-4 with a 2.15 ERA and a WHIP of 0.994 allowing just 38 hits in 54 1/3 innings pitched. He was the Padres' eighth-round selection of the June 2001 free agent draft. His career has included trades to the Red Sox and Orioles. He signed with the Mariners as a minor league free agent in November 2009. Pauley’s fastball clocks at 89-92 mph with good movement. He has a solid curveball and good changeup. He can field his position well with a good pick-off move. His command has really improved this year, as he’s making fewer mistakes over the middle of the plate. After giving up 13 home runs last year for the Mariners, he has only given up two this year thanks to the improvement of his command and control. His WHIP has been trending downward as well from 2.27 in ’08 to 1.3 in ’10 to 0.99 this year. He should help the Tigers' bullpen depth in the sixth or seventh innings.
Martinez, just 20 years old, was the key to the trade for the Mariners. He has All-Star potential. He has a line-drive stroke with a good path to the ball with above-average bat speed. His power is below average now, but projects to average when he learns to add a slight upper-cut to his swing. The Tigers have moved him aggressively up the ladder pushing him all the way to Double-A this year to playing for their Erie club in the Eastern League. Martinez has held his own there by batting .282/.319 with seven home runs and 46 RBIs in 91 games. Martinez has soft hands and an above-average arm from third base. He makes throwing errors because of his not having his feet in proper position, which is often caused by his above-average range; this should improve with experience.
Wells, 26, gives the Mariners a right-handed-hitting outfielder and adds depth to a low-inventory outfield. Wells played seven seasons in the minor leagues, hitting 81 home runs with an OBP of .342 and an OPS of .836 in 1,968 plate appearances. In the major leagues with the Tigers in parts of two seasons he’s hit eight home runs with 29 RBIs and an OPS of .831 in 224 plate appearances. He is considered a fourth outfielder because of an inconsistent swing, difficulties with hitting good fastballs and susceptibility to nasty breaking balls, always swinging over them. His swing is choppy at times. However, he does have good pop when he does connect. Wells has the ability to play all three outfield positions, with right field being his best defensive position. He has a plus arm and can throw you out. He has the potential to be a solid fourth outfielder.
Furbush, 25, is a tall left-hander with a violent delivery, and he lives off deception and hiding the ball. His command and control comes and goes. Furbush is 25-20 with a 3.71 ERA in 73 minor league games striking out an impressive 406 hitters in only 386 innings pitched, but that’s thanks to deception rather than any one wipeout pitch. He has an average fastball at 89-93 mph that’s equipped with average movement. His curveball comes in around 74-77 mph, and he does get some swing-and-misses on it. The slider is a decent pitch for him, coming in at 80-83 mph, and he’ll flash an occasional average changeup. He profiles out to be a fifth starter or long reliever.