The Tigers tried this on deadline day two years ago when they sent two youngsters to Seattle for Jarrod Washburn. At the time, Washburn had a 2.64 ERA and a 79/33 K/BB ratio in 133 innings for the Mariners.
As it turned out, Washburn was a major bust in Detroit, going 1-3 with a 7.33 ERA in eight starts. Knee problems had something to do with his struggles, but exiting Safeco Field also played a big role.
Now the Tigers are hoping a pitcher with a 3.33 ERA and a 89/32 K/BB ratio in 146 innings for Seattle can make a difference for them. They sent left-hander Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells, third baseman Francisco Martinez and a player to be named to the Mariners for right-handers Doug Fister and David Pauley on Saturday.
It wasn’t necessarily a huge price to pay. And, for what it’s worth, neither of the prospects the Tigers gave up two years ago, left-handers Luke French and Mauricio Robles, have helped Seattle a bit.
Furbush, 25, will be looked at as the key piece for Seattle. The 2007 fourth-round pick made his major league debut earlier this season and did an excellent job out of the pen before flopping in a pair of starts. He throws in the low-90s and has a nice curve. He’s probably a long-term fourth or fifth starter, but Seattle could make him look better than that.
Wells, 26, wasn’t getting a chance to be more than a bit player in Detroit, but he had a fine .286/.341/.490 line in 206 at-bats since arriving last year. He probably won’t be good enough against right-handers to cut it as a full-timer, but he makes for an excellent fourth outfielder and the Mariners should give him quite a bit of time in left field right away.
Martinez is a wild card. The 20-year-old just played for the World squad in the Futures Game a couple of weeks ago, but he’s a career .277/.329/.361 hitter with 13 homers in 1,108 minor league at-bats. His stock is definitely up this year, as he’s more than held his own by hitting .282/.319/.405 as one of the youngest position players in Double-A. However, his plate disclipline leaves much to be desired.
The Tigers are banking on Fister and Pauley upgrading a Tigers pitching staff that ranks 11th in the AL in ERA. And they probably will. The Tigers had gotten a terrible run of outings from their fifth starters since Phil Coke got hurt in late May. Fister owes a lot to Safeco Field and Franklin Gutierrez, but he did have a 3.71 ERA in 10 road starts this season. For his career, he had a 4.40 ERA in 25 starts away outside of Seattle.
I doubt Fister will post a sub-4.00 ERA as a Tiger, but if he can just go out there and give up three runs over six innings, then he’ll be doing his job.
Pauley isn’t likely to be much of an asset. The journeyman right-hander had an awesome run at the beginning of the season, allowing three runs in 32 1/3 innings through the end of May. However, he has a 4.09 ERA and a 14/11 K/BB ratio in 22 innings since. He also had a 0.67 ERA at Safeco for the season, compared to a 3.62 ERA elsewhere. He may work as an innings-eating middle reliever for the Tigers, but he shouldn’t be entrusted with late leads.
It is worth noting here that the trade wasn’t made with only 2011 in mind. Fister isn’t even eligible for arbitration until after next year, and he won’t be a free agent until after the 2015 season. Pauley, likewise, will make barely more than the minimum next season.
And that drove up the price for the Tigers. Still, the team was able to keep Andy Oliver out of the deal and give up Furbush instead. I think Oliver is the better of the two young lefties, and I’m surprised the Mariners didn’t insist on him.
So, it looks to me to be a decent trade for both sides. The Tigers didn’t get a real difference maker, but they also probably didn’t part with one. Detroit added some stability, and the Mariners won out on talent. Furbush could approximate Fister’s results next year, Wells will be a fine role player and Martinez has some chance of becoming a long-term major league third baseman.