Casper Wells Rumors
The Blue Jays designated outfielder Casper Wells for assignment, according to a team press release. The Jays made the move upon purchasing the contract of pitcher Ramon Ortiz. The Jays had claimed Wells off waivers from the Mariners last Wednesday, after the Ms designated him for assignment on March 31st. Wells is out of options, so he'll need to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.
Wells, 28, hit .228/.302/.396 in 316 plate appearances for the Mariners last year, spending time at all three outfield positions. He did not get into a game for the Blue Jays since last week's claim. Wells owns a .264/.349/.489 career line against left-handed pitching. He had joined the Mariners in July 2011 as part of the deal that sent Doug Fister to Detroit.
Wells, 28, came the Mariners from Detroit as part of the Doug Fister trade. In 432 plate appearances for the M's, Wells hit .225/.304/.406 with 17 home runs. Wells is capable of playing all three outfield positions and has abused left-handed pitching to the tune of a .264/.349/.489 batting line.
The Mariners elected to go with an outfield mix of Michael Saunders, Michael Morse, Franklin Gutierrez, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay, leaving no room for Wells on the 25-man roster. As MLB.com's Greg Johns notes (on Twitter), today was the deadline for the Mariners to make a decision regarding Wells' future.
The Tigers opened the 2011 season with a rotation that consisted of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, Phil Coke and Brad Penny. With the non-Verlanders of that group (particularly Coke and Penny) underperforming, the team sought help for the back end of the rotation in July.
They got that help by acquiring Doug Fister (and reliever David Pauley) from the Mariners in exchange for four players: 20-year-old third baseman Francisco Martinez, 26-year-old outfielder Casper Wells, 25-year-old southpaw Charlie Furbush and a player to be named later that would be 22-year-old right-hander Chance Ruffin.
It's hard to believe that the Tigers, Mariners or even Fister himself were prepared for the results of this trade, so let's look at it on a player-by-player level...
The Major League Side
- Doug Fister: Fister was 27 at the time of the trade and had less than two years of Major League service time. He'd been solid but not spectacular in his brief career, as he was the owner of a 3.81 ERA, 5.2 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 378 innings for the Mariners. He was in the midst of his best season when he was dealt, having pitched to a 3.33 ERA in 146 1/3 innings. Fister channeled his inner Greg Maddux upon arriving in Detroit though, allowing just 14 earned runs with a 57-to-5 K/BB ratio in 70 1/3 innings for the AL Central champs. He's significantly upped his strikeout rate in Detroit, and all told he's given them 232 innings of 2.95 ERA ball with a 7.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9. Fangraphs pegs Fister's tenure in Detroit at a whopping 5.8 wins above replacement. He's under control for another three seasons and is set to earn $4MM this year after being eligible for arbitration for the first time this past winter.
- David Pauley: Pauley is perhaps the forgotten man in this trade, although there's probably a reason for that. The right-hander threw just 19 2/3 innings for the Tigers after the trade, allowing 10 runs on 26 hits and six walks with just 10 strikeouts. Pauley was ulimately released by the Tigers the following spring and appeared in just 16 2/3 innings for the Angels and Blue Jays last year.
- Charlie Furbush: Furbush floundered in Seattle's rotation in 2011, posting a 6.62 ERA in 10 starts. He thrived when moved to a bullpen role in 2012, however, thanks in large part to trading his curveball-changeup mix for a devastating slider to complement his heater. A triceps strain cost him a month of action last season, but when he was healthy he dominated lefties (.404 OPS) and held right-handed hitters in check as well (.637 OPS). Furbush can be a key bullpen piece in Seattle for a long time; he's not eligible for arbitration until the 2014-15 offseason, and he's under team control through 2017.
- Casper Wells: Wells brought a good amount of power and some excellent defense to the Mariners. He clubbed 17 homers in addition to a .225/.304/.406 batting line (102 OPS+) and was eight runs above average in 893 innings for Seattle, per The Fielding Bible. Wells is capable of handling all three outfield positions, but the Mariners made the questionable decision to designate him for assignment last week to give Jason Bay a chance.
The Prospect Side
- Francisco Martinez: Martinez was ranked as the Tigers' No. 4 prospect heading into the 2011 season, per Baseball America. He had reached Double-A at just 20 years of age -- a rare feat that was a testament to the "live-bodied, athletic" label that BA slapped on him. He hit .310/.326/.481 for the Mariners' Double-A affiliate in 2011 following the trade, prompting BA to rank him as the team's No. 6 prospect entering 2012. BA praised his bat speed, stating that he "all the raw tools to fit the profile of an everyday third baseman, with the added bonus of plus speed." Martinez took a huge step backward in 2012, however, hitting just .227/.315/.295 in his second Double-A stint. He's dropped to No. 22 on BA's list of Top 30 Mariners prospects and No. 19 according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo. The Mariners tried Martinez in center field for 15 games in 2012 because of his plus speed, and Mayo notes that he'll play there exclusively in 2013. Mayo also points out that despite Martinez's struggles in 2012, he did improve his plate discipline -- an area in which he'd previously struggled. He'll repeat Double-A in 2013, which isn't as grim as it sounds when considering he just turned 22 in September.
- Chance Ruffin: Ruffin had to be included as a PTBNL because he had been selected by the Tigers in the 2010 draft (48th overall). He had entered the 2011 season as the Tigers' No. 7 prospect, per BA, and he carried the same designation with the Mariners into the 2012 season. Ruffin actually pitched 14 innings for Seattle in 2011 (3.86 ERA, 15-to-9 K/BB ratio) but reported to Triple-A in 2012. The results were ugly. The Texas alum posted a gruesome 5.99 ERA in 70 2/3 innings and saw his K/9 plummet from 11.1 to 6.9, while his BB/9 increased to 4.5. The brutal season was enough to drop him off Mayo's Top 20 list and knock him back to 27th on BA's Top 30 entering the 2013 season. BA cites erosion of his solid command in college and inconsitent mechanics as the reason for his downfall: "He lands on a stiff front leg and throws across his body, hurting his ability to locate his pitches where he wants. His long arm swing in the back and lower release point make it easy for lefthanders to pick up his pitches, and they hit .294/.348/.516 against him last year." The good news is that BA still likes his stuff, praising a 90-93 mph fastball that can touch 95 mph when needed and a plus slider with late break, which BA calls a true out pitch.
It's easy to see why the Tigers look like big winners in this trade, as the two key pieces of the deal for the Mariners have both taken large steps backward in their development. However, Martinez won't be 23 until September -- the same month in which Ruffin will turn 25 -- and the team does seem to have a solid bullpen piece already at the Major League level in Furbush. Martinez won't be at such a large age disadvantage in the Southern League this year, which could benefit his numbers. Ruffin will also open the season at Double-A as the Mariners plan to convert him to a starting pitcher (hat tip: Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune).
At the time of the trade, ESPN's Keith Law wrote that the Mariners did well to acquire such a strong package for Fister and Pauley, but clearly the scales have tipped in Detroit's favor. A rebound from Martinez or successful to transition to starting for Ruffin would make this trade look fair, but even if that happens I doubt you'll ever hear the Tigers or their fans complaining about the Doug Fister trade.
Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook was used in the creation of this post. Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The nine top names to watch in Los Angeles baseball in 2013 include Chase Headley and Robinson Cano, argues Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Headley could be an in-season trade target for the Dodgers, and Cano will likely be connected to the Dodgers as a free agent next winter. Shaikin also suggests that if the Dodgers don't do well in 2013, they could try to hire Rays GM Andrew Friedman. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Mariners' decision to keep Jason Bay and designate Casper Wells for assignment doesn't make sense, Jeff Sullivan of USS Mariner says. Sullivan notes that Wells is younger, had four years of team control remaining, and has recently been the better player on both offense and defense -- and the Mariners will likely lose him for virtually nothing. "Wells, probably, is going to end up getting traded to a team with a thin outfield in exchange for a non-roster barely-prospect," Sullivan says. Sullivan also points out that Wells was one of the key players in the Doug Fister deal with the Tigers. The Tigers already looked like clear winners in that trade, but it's even clearer now.
- The Giants' signing of Buster Posey to an eight-year, $159MM contract demonstrates the inequities between the Giants and the Athletics, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. The Giants have opposed the Athletics' move to San Jose. "It's more than mildly ironic that the Giants granted a single player a contract that exceeds the A's entire payroll by a factor of three," says San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo.
- The trade of Vernon Wells to the Yankees gave the Angels additional payroll flexibility, Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com writes. The deal leaves the Angels about $6MM under the luxury tax threshold, Gonzalez reports.
The Mariners have designated outfielder Casper Wells for assignment, tweets Greg Johns of MLB.com. The Mariners now have ten days to either trade, release, or outright Wells to the minors. If Wells clears waivers, he cannot elect free agency because he does not have enough service time and has not been designated for assignment before, reports the Seattle Times' Larry Stone (Twitter link). The Phillies and Tigers could have interest in the 28-year-old. Wells was a member of the Tigers until he was traded to the Mariners in the Doug Fister deal in July 2011.
The roster move means Jason Bay has made the team. The Mariners filled the open 40-man roster spot by selecting the contract of right-hander D.J. Mitchell, who was then optioned to Triple-A, according to Shannon Drayer of ESPN Radio Seattle (via Twitter).
Commissioner Bud Selig weighed in on the Houston Astros' strategy and payroll, saying that the organization has "chosen the path with some very qualfied people" and that he "think[s] they're doing it the right way." ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider sub. req'd) that baseball should be more cautious in endorsing what he characterizes as a "strategy to lose." Of course, it remains to be seen how the major league club will compete this season in what figures to be a tough AL West.
- With today's news of a big extension for Adam Wainwright, attention could turn to another ace who could be extended: the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw. According to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, however, Kershaw does not want to keep negotiations open past spring training and is staying quiet as to whether there has been any progress. Hernandez also notes that Kershaw's agents, Casey Close and J.D. Smart, visited Dodger camp a week ago but were not not actively discussing a Kershaw extension.
- The time is now for the Dodgers to decide what to do with their excess starting pitching, writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles TImes. Aaron Harang, for one, may have thrown his last pitch in Dodger blue. While Harang's tepid spring is a deterrent, Dilbeck notes that the righty threw well last season and should draw suitors.
- Chris Young could sign with the Angels, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, who also notes that the Mets are highly unlikely to sign him. The righty is back on the market after opting out of his contract with the Nationals.
- Mariners manager Eric Wedge says a decision between outfielders Casper Wells and Jason Bay will be made soon, leading Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times to posit that Wells could already have been put on waivers. If Wells is indeed put on waivers, he would be an option for the Phillies, tweets Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- The Diamondbacks have released Josh Booty, who earned a non-roster invite as the winner of "The Next Knuckler," the team announced on Twitter. The former QB was originally drafted by the Marlins fifth overall back in 1994 before he retired to pursue football, which meant that he was still technically under Marlins control when he joined Arizona for the spring.
2:00pm: Chavez says he will start the year at Triple-A, reports MLB.com's John Schlegel.
11:05am: Not surprisingly, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times confirms that it's a minor league contract. As Baker writes, the bigger story behind this signing is that it places Casper Wells' future with the Mariners in doubt.
10:40am: The Mariners have signed Endy Chavez, according to agent Chris Leible of the Legacy Agency on Twitter (hat tip: Andy Martino of the New York Daily News). Chavez will report to camp with the Mariners today.
Chavez signed a minor league deal with the Royals earlier this offseason, but Kansas City released the 35-year-old last week.
Chavez spent the 2009 season with the Mariners, appearing in 54 games and posting a .273/.328/.342 batting line before a torn ACL cost him the remainder of the season. Chavez is a veteran of 11 Major League seasons and seven teams. He is a career .269/.306/.367 hitter and a very highly regarded defensive outfielder at all three positions, as evidenced by his career 11.7 UZR/150.
Former Tiger and current Mariner Casper Wells could be headed back to his old team, MLB.com's Jason Beck posits. "Maybe Casper Wells doesn’t make the Mariners roster," says Beck. "Maybe the Tigers can parlay their depth in another spot, maybe an extra reliever, into an extra outfielder." The Tigers currently have an open spot available for a righty-hitting outfielder. If they don't pursue one from outside the organization, that spot could go to Matt Tuiasosopo. Here are more notes from Detroit and Seattle.
- The Tigers shouldn't trade pitcher Rick Porcello because doing so would weaken their depth, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman argues. The better move, Heyman suggests, would be to place Porcello in their starting rotation and use Drew Smyly as an insurance policy. That's a viewpoint Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski seems to appreciate: "Really, one of our big needs is starting pitching depth," says Dombrowski. "If we trade one of these guys [either Porcello or Smyly], then we hurt ourselves more in that area."
- Heyman also notes that Dombrowski isn't nearly as eager as manager Jim Leyland to pursue a closer from outside the organization. "A manager and a general manager are in two different spots," Dombrowski says."I understand from a manager's perspective, he'd rather have one guy he can point to on a daily basis."
- Jesus Montero's injury could complicate Kameron Loe's bid to be added to the Mariners' roster, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. Montero was struck in the head on Saturday by Francisco Lindor's backswing, and it's not clear when Montero will be able to return to action. If Montero isn't ready to go to start the season, the Mariners will have to add another catcher to the 40-man roster, perhaps Jesus Sucre. That might make it difficult for the Mariners to find space on their 40-man for Loe, and Loe can trigger an out clause in his contract on Monday.
- Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders is happy to have the offseason behind him, MLB.com's John Schlegel reports. Saunders signed a one-year deal with the M's as a free agent. "It was nerve-racking, not knowing where you're going," he says. "It was the first real free agency for me, and it was an experience, for sure. It's a good one to be over with. I feel bad for Kyle Lohse."
6:53pm: Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski vehemently denied that he had proposed any deals involving Porcello, including any offers to the Padres, reports Lynn Henning of The Detroit News. Dombrowski acknowledged that his "phone has been ringing a lot," and added that "this is the best I've ever seen [Porcello] throw the baseball."
12:07pm: The Padres have turned down two offers from the Tigers, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio reports (on Twitter). The Padres declined to take Porcello for Huston Street or Luke Gregerson, a Tigers source told Bowden.
THURSDAY, 8:33am: The Cardinals are checking out Porcello, Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports (on Twitter).
WEDNESDAY: The Rangers and Padres are the teams most actively discussing potential Rick Porcello trades with the Tigers, Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports report. The Orioles have also scouted the right-hander.
Despite the strong interest, rival teams wonder if the Tigers will actually trade Porcello. Instead of making a deal, the Tigers could choose to keep Porcello and use Drew Smyly in the bullpen or as a starter at Triple-A Toledo. The FOX writers report that the Tigers will not move Porcello unless they obtain a strong return.
The Padres made an “aggressive” offer last week and the Tigers rejected it, Rosenthal and Morosi report. Talks with the Rangers are not advanced at this point. The Tigers appear to like shortstop prospect Leury Garcia and right-handed pitching prospect Nick Tepesch. Detroit would want a third player added to the package, but the Rangers are reluctant to move even Tepesch.
The Red Sox could have interest in Porcello, yet they don’t want to reduce their bullpen depth, the FOX duo reports. The Orioles aren’t inclined to pursue Porcello aggressively, as they have many young starting pitchers of their own.
The Tigers also seek a right-handed hitting outfielder. They have talked about re-acquiring Casper Wells from the Mariners, Rosenthal and Morosi report. The Tigers traded Wells to Seattle midway through the 2011 season in the deal that sent Doug Fister to Detroit.
On this day in 2000, the Reds acquired Ken Griffey Jr. from the Mariners in exchange for pitchers Brett Tomko and Jake Meyer, center fielder Mike Cameron and infielder Antonio Perez. Griffey would sign the largest contract in MLB history at the time to the tune of a nine-year, $116.5MM deal. Let's catch up on the latest news and stories making headlines from around the big leagues.
- The Mariners enter Spring Training with more than just a handful of outfielders competing for four or five spots on the roster, writes Ryan Divish of The News Tribune. Casper Wells, gifted defensively but lacking a consistent bat, may be lost on waivers if he is designated for assignment as he is out of options.
- Ryan Lavarnway's chances of making the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox may be beyond his control given the presence of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and David Ross as well as his option, says Rob Bradford of WEEI.com. “For me, I want to win the World Series,” Lavarnway said. "It doesn’t matter if I’m there for however long. We play this game to win and if you’re not playing this game to win then I don’t know why you’re playing. However I can help."
- The Red Sox made a series of offseason acquisitions which has to raise the question of how will all of the new players fit in to the culture of the clubhouse, wonders Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe. Abraham says GM Ben Cherington wants to field a squad that looks new in 2013 and hopes the additions made in the offseason will foster a different vibe in the clubhouse.