With the July 31 trade deadline right around the corner, the Detroit Tigers bolstered the bottom of their rotation by acquiring 27 year-old Mariners righthander Doug Fister along with reliever David Pauley.
After inquiring on a slew of different starting pitchers, Detroit settled on the Seattle righthander in exchange for lefthanded starter Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells, highly-regarded third base prospect Francisco Martinez, and a player to be named later.
In his second year as a full-time starter, Fister has compiled a 3.33 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 32 walks in 146.0 innings. His 3-12 record belies the stellar work he has done this season and is a direct byproduct of the Mariners anemic offense. Fister has received the lowest run support of any pitcher in major league baseball at 3.02 runs per game and has received just ten runs of support in his last ten starts. He is unlikely to experience the same problem in Detroit, where the potent Tigers offense has provided its rotation with strong production all season.
The Detroit rotation has major question marks outside of ace Justin Verlander, with Rick Porcello (10-6, 4.67), Brad Penny (8-7, 4.89), and Max Scherzer (11-6, 4.28) all struggling to establish consistency on the mound. The fifth starter spot has been a sore spot all season long as the Tigers tried several different internal options before making the move for Fister. Top prospect Jacob Turner, 20, is making his major league debut today, but will likely return to the minor leagues for more seasoning after his Comerica Park debut.
The Tigers also upgraded their shaky bullpen, adding 28 year-old righty David Pauley. One of the best relievers in the American League this season, Pauley has stymied opponents in the late innings, accruing a 5-4 record and 2.15 ERA in 34.2 innings. His peripherals are also extremely strong, namely a 0.99 WHIP and .200 batting average against. Pauley will be a strong addition to a Detroit bullpen that currently ranks 11th in the American League with a 4.26 team ERA.
In return, the rapidly decliding Mariners receive outfielder Casper Wells, a 26 year-old bench bat who has posted a .257/.323/.451 triple-slash line with 4 home runs and 12 RBI in 113 at-bats. Wells struggled to find playing time in Detroit's crowded outfield and was optioned to Triple-A Toledo a little more than a week ago but will receive occasional starts in Seattle. As of now, he is not a particularly attractive fantasy option, especially in cavernous Safeco Field.
Lefthanded pitcher Charlie Furbush also joins the Seattle organization. The 25-year old was selected by Detroit out of LSU in the 4th Round of the 2007 MLB Draft and posted excellent numbers in his first few minor league stops. Furbush scuffled upon arriving at Triple-A Toledo in the second half of the 2010 season, but his 183 total strikeouts at three different levels (high-A Lakeland, Double-A Erie, Triple-A Toledo) placed him second in all of minor league baseball. Sent back to Toledo prior to the start of the 2011 season, Furbush fared exponentially better in his second Triple-A go-round, posting a 5-3 record and 3.17 ERA. His secondary numbers were excellent, with 61 strikeouts and 16 walks in 54.0 innings pitched. Furbush has also held his own since his May 23 major league callup, producing a 3.62 ERA in 17 appearances (two starts). He will have an opportunity to join the major league rotation in Seattle.
The long-term key to the entire trade, however, might be 20-year old third baseman Francisco Martinez. Signed as a 16-year old out of Venezuela in 2007, Martinez was tabbed as the No. 4 prospect in Detroit's system by Baseball America prior to the start of the 2011 season. Despite his young age, Martinez was placed in Double A to start this season and has not disappointed, posting a .282/.319/.405 line with 7 home runs. He hasn't hit for much power, but most scouts believe he will add size to his 6'1'', 180 lbs. frame. The Mariners are in desperate need of high-ceiling infield prospects, and the addition of Martinez could eventually pay dividends.
Detroit firmly believes it has a team built to win immediately, and with the mediocre play turned in by the AL Central this season, it is not hard to see why many observers and pundits believe the Tigers will eventually distance themselves from the pack. The addition of Fister provides them with an inexpensive yet productive bottom-of-the-rotation starter, while Pauley will solidify the team's precarious bullpen. Seattle's recent 17-game losing skid all but guaranteed the team's position as a seller, and Fister was a logical candidate to be moved given the team's need for impact bats.