|Echoing the deal the two teams struck exactly two years ago, the Tigers acquired pitching help from the Mariners in exchange for young players. Detroit received 27-year-old righthander Doug Fister and journeyman righty reliever David Pauley, while Seattle received outfielder Casper Wells and lefty Charlie Furbush, two players in their mid-20s who gained a toehold in the majors this year but who also spent time in Triple-A, as well as promising Double-A third baseman Francisco Martinez and a player to be named.
UPDATE: The Tigers traded righthanded reliever Chance Ruffin, a supplemental first-round pick in 2010, to the Mariners to complete the deal on Aug. 17.
On July 30, 2009, the Mariners shipped 35-year-old Jarrod Washburn to the Tigers for young lefties Luke French and Mauricio Robles. Washburn went 1-3, 7.33 in eight starts for the Tigers and hasn’t been heard from since. An extra win for the ’09 Tigers would have resulted in an American League Central division title, but as it played out they tied the Twins with a record of 86-76 and subsequently lost a one-game playoff to Minnesota.
The Tigers were willing to surrender Martinez, the organization’s No. 4-ranked prospect heading into the season, as well as big league contributors like Wells and Furbush because the pitchers they obtained, Fister and Pauley, will not qualify for free agency for four more years. They won’t even qualify for arbitration until after 2012. While the 6-foot-8 Fister has just fringy stuff—high-80s sinker, cutter, changeup and slow curve—he boasts supreme control (career walk rate of 1.9 per nine innings) and enough command to keep rallies in check (1.24 WHIP, 2.8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio). He benefited greatly from pitching half his game’s in Seattle’s Safeco Field, as any pitcher would. For his career, Fister’s road ERA (4.40 over 149 innings) is a full run higher than his home ERA (3.42 over 229 innings).
The Mariners signed Pauley to a minor league deal in December 2009, and he pitched effectively as a starter in the big leagues last season before taking up a bullpen role this year and graduating to a set-up role. A Padres eighth-round pick in 2001, he also pitched in the Red Sox and Orioles organizations, receiving negligible big league time (28 innings). Pauley features a repertoire similar to Fister—sinker, cutter, low-to-mid-70s curve, good changeup—which he uses to throw strikes and work ahead of batters. He had been practically untouchable at home this season, logging 27 innings over 18 appearances and allowing 13 hits (0.67 WHIP) and two runs (0.67 ERA) while posting a 15-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Fister and Pauley ought to be able to retain much of their effectiveness in moving from one big yard (Safeco) to another (Detroit’s Comerica Park).
|Francisco Martinez, 3b
Age: 20. Position: 3B (89 G).
Born: Sept. 1, 1990 in Miranda, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Tigers, July 2, 2007.
After a sluggish April (.547 OPS), Martinez has played well for the past three months, batting .306/.333/.434 with five homers and 13 doubles in 281 at-bats as a 20-year-old in Double-A. His strongest tool is his plus speed, something that’s not necessarily apparent in his 30 career stolen bases (with a season high of 12) while playing in the U.S. Martinez is more notable as a prospect for not having an obvious weakness, and he projects as a solid regular at third base who receives average grades from scouts across the board. He makes steady contact with a quick bat, but his flat plane may produce more doubles than homers. That approach will play anywhere, particularly in Safeco. While he’s probably not destined to win a Gold Glove, Martinez makes the routine plays and has average arm strength.
|Casper Wells, rf
Age: 26. Position: RF (58 G), CF (7 G), LF (6 G).
Born: Nov. 23, 1984 in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Tigers in 14th round of 2005 draft; signed June 11, 2005.
Wells impressed Tigers manager Jim Leyland with his play in a part-time role this season. He made 27 starts in the outfield, in which he batted .277 and slugged .500, while serving also as a defensive replacement for Magglio Ordonez in right field. Wells got caught in a roster crunch when Detroit optioned him to Toledo on July 20. (Assuming that Seattle doesn’t send him back to the minors this season, Wells will have one option remaining because his third and final option this year had not yet vested. That requires 20 days.) In parts of two seasons in Triple-A he’s batted .244/.317/.505 with 23 homers in 414 at-bats, a performance that typifies his tool set. Wells has enough power to hit about 15 home runs in a full-time role, but his pitch recognition and bat speed call into question how successful he’ll be in the batting average department. He runs well enough to handle center field on occasion, but he’s better suited for right field, where his plus arm plays up. Wells’ profile makes him just about the perfect candidate for a righty-hitting, part-time outfielder role.
|Charlie Furbush, lhp
Born: April 11, 1986 in South Portland, Maine.
Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 215. Bats: L. Throws: L.
School: Louisiana State.
Career Transactions: Selected by Tigers in fourth round of 2007 draft; signed June 21, 2007 … On disabled list, April 3-Sept. 8, 2008.
Furbush ranked second only to Rays lefty Matt Moore, among minor league pitchers, with 183 strikeouts in 2010. Despite that, and his rate of 10.2 whiffs per nine innings with Toledo this season, he does not possess overpowering stuff. Furbush pitches at 89-91 mph and can scrape 92 on occasion. He relies on a mid-70s curveball and low-80s cutter to keep lefty batters at bay, but his straight changeup hasn’t disrupted the timing of big league righties much at all (.937 OPS). The Tigers tried Furbush in the rotation twice in early July, but that experiment produced an ugly 8.59 ERA (12 runs on 14 hits in 7 1/3 innings), so they promptly moved him back to the bullpen, where he had been moderately effective. In 15 relief appearances for Detroit he had logged 25 innings and allowed 22 hits and 11 walks (1.32 WHIP) while striking out 19. Furbush could pitch at the back of a big league rotation, particularly in a forgiving park like Safeco, but he might have a larger impact in a relief role.
|Chance Ruffin, rhp
Born: Sept. 8, 1988 in Austin.
Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Selected by Tigers in supplemental first round (48th overall) of 2010 draft; signed Aug. 16, 2010.
Ruffin excelled as a closer at the University of Texas and jumped straight into that role in pro ball with Double-A Erie. In his debut he showed swing-and-miss-stuff (11.1 strikeouts per nine innings) and shaky control (4.1 walks per nine), even for a reliever. Ruffin throws a sinking, tailing fastball at 91-92 mph in on the hands of righthanded batters, but his low-80s, power slider is his go-to out-pitch.
|Doug Fister, rhp
Age: 27. Remaining Commitment: $436,500 salary for 2011; under club control for 2012-15 seasons.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
|David Pauley, rhp
Age: 28. Remaining Commitment: $422,000 salary for 2011; under club control for 2012-15 seasons.
Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.