Charlie Furbush Rumors
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.
A few notes from around the Majors as we wrap up a very busy Thursday...
- The Rangers are "not looking at anything major" in terms of further offseason moves, general manager Jon Daniels tells MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan. If the club does make any additions, it will be bench depth or another candidate to fight for the fifth starter's job.
- Left-hander Charlie Furbush wasn't part of the package the Mariners offered to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times reports. The two teams had agreed on a package that included Taijuan Walker, Nick Franklin and Stephen Pryor before Upton blocked the deal with his no-trade protection. Stone isn't sure if just those three were offered to Arizona or if another pitcher besides Furbush was also part of the proposed trade.
- Mike Aviles hasn't heard updates from his agent about his contract status with the Indians but tells MLB.com's Jordan Bastian that "as far as I know, everything is progressing and I don't see why it wouldn't be settled" before the two sides reach an arbitration hearing. Aviles is the Tribe's only remaining arb-eligible player who hasn't yet agreed to a deal. MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker indicates that Aviles is looking for a $3.4MM contract while Cleveland is offering $2.4MM.
- Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse are still unsigned, which many attribute to the draft pick compensation tied to them as players who turned down qualifying offers from their former teams. Andrew Miller, the Red Sox MLBPA representative, told Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal that the two players' situations "clearly means more fine-tuning" is needed for the new free agency rules. "It's not an open market for these guys....It's just unfortunate that those guys can help teams but teams are hesitant to go after them because of a draft pick," Miller said.
- Center field has been the busiest position of the offseason, as MLB.com's Andrew Simon notes the large number of teams who have made changes in center this winter.
- The Royals don't have an out clause in their TV contract with FOX Sports Kansas City, Royals senior VP of business Kevin Uhlich tells Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star. The club's current broadcast deal runs through the 2019 season.
10:50pm: Taijuan Walker would have been the fourth player in the trade package to the D'Backs, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter). Walker, a 20-year-old right-hander, was ranked as the 20th-best prospect in the sport by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season, though he struggled pitching at the Double-A level last year.
7:40pm: The Mariners offered a four-player package to the D'Backs, according to Scott Miller of CBS Sports. Arizona would have received Nick Franklin, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor and one of Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen or James Paxton.
6:06 pm: Diamondbacks outfielder Justin Upton invoked his limited no-trade clause to reject an agreed-upon deal between the D'Backs and Mariners that would have sent Upton to Seattle, reports Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The M's were prepared to give up "a package of young talent" in the trade, a return that Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic has heard was "substantial" (Twitter link).
Though several teams have been linked to Upton over the last two seasons, the Mariners seem to be the first to propose a deal that has gotten the D'Backs to agree to move the 25-year-old outfielder. As Rosenthal/Morosi note, the trade rejection could be gamesmanship by either Upton or the D'Backs --- Upton could be trying to control where he ends up, or the Snakes are sending the message that if Upton wants to leave Arizona, his only option is Seattle. The Mariners, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Cubs are the four teams on Upton's current no-trade list, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link).
It's been awfully quiet on the Pirates rumor front lately, but maybe that's just because the team's front office is keeping a lid on it. The latest:
- Talks between the Pirates and A's about Josh Willingham are finished, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter). The talks never intensified.
- The Pirates and A's are talking, tweets Jon Paul Morosi, as Oakland can fill the Pirates' need for a bat and a reliever.
- The Pirates inquired on Carlos Pena but sensed the Cubs weren't motivated to trade him, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. The Bucs are not sure that Pena's predecessor, Derrek Lee of the Orioles, is an upgrade for them. I think he would be.
- The Pirates had interest in lefty Charlie Furbush before the Tigers sent him to Seattle today, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
3:51pm: The player to be named later in this trade is one of the Tigers' top three picks from the 2010 draft, tweets ESPN's Shannon Drayer. That means Nick Castellanos, Chance Ruffin, or Drew Smyly. I'm guessing Ruffin or Smyly.
12:08pm: The Tigers added pitching today, acquiring starter Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from the Mariners for third baseman Francisco Martinez, outfielder Casper Wells, southpaw Charlie Furbush, and a player to be named later. The Tigers have Fister for the long haul, as he's under team control through 2015 and isn't arbitration eligible until after next season. Both teams have confirmed the trade.
Fister, 27, has a 3.33 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 46.4% groundball rate in 146 innings this year. The big righty's walk rate ranks seventh in the AL, his innings total tenth. His 6.95 innings per start average is a welcome contrast from the Tigers' non-Verlander starters, who all average around six. Drafted in the seventh round in 2006, Fister (pictured) never cracked a Baseball America top 30 Mariners prospect list, but he's become a solid mid-rotation innings eater. The acquisition sets up the Tigers' front four starters beyond this season, with Brad Penny eligible for free agency but Fister, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello under team control.
Pauley, 28, has a 2.15 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.33 HR/9, and 49.0% groundball rate in 54 1/3 relief innings for Seattle this year. His relief innings total ranks second in the American League. He's potentially under team control through 2015 as well. Pauley adds depth to the Tigers' bullpen with righty Al Alburquerque battling elbow inflammation. Those holding Pauley in fantasy leagues can probably cut bait, explains Dan Mennella of CloserNews.
Martinez, 20, is currently with the Tigers' Double-A club. Baseball America ranked him fourth among Tigers prospects prior to the season, noting he's always played against older competition and has projection remaining.
Wells, 26, is hitting .257/.323/.451 in 125 plate appearances for the Tigers. A right-handed hitter, Wells can play all three outfield positions. Prior to the season, Baseball America ranked Wells 19th among Tigers prospects, explaining that "his holes at the plate will limit him to being a role player in the big leagues."
Furbush, a 25-year-old rookie, has a 3.62 ERA in 32 1/3 innings this year, mostly in relief. This year at Triple-A he posted a 3.17 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, and 1.2 HR/9 in 54 innings. Baseball America ranked him 26th among Tigers prospects prior to the season, noting that the Tommy John survivor used deception to rack up strikeouts in the minors. Furbush lacks a true plus pitch, according to BA. As for the player to be named later, he'll be chosen from a group of three on or before August 20th according to Jon Paul Morosi.
10:40am: Larry Stone of the Seattle Times tweets that the Mariners will also get a player to be named later, and it could be a "pretty significant name." The Tigers may make one more trade before tomorrow, tweets Jon Paul Morosi.
10:03am: The Tigers acquired Fister, tweets SI's Jon Heyman.
9:05am: Lefty Charlie Furbush is among the players expected to go to Seattle in a Fister trade, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. The Tigers are trying to get a reliever other than Brandon League as well.
Fister, 27, has a 3.33 ERA, 5.5 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.43 HR/9, and 46.4% groundball rate in 146 innings this year. His walk rate ranks seventh in the AL, his innings total tenth. His 6.95 innings per start average is a welcome contrast from the Tigers' non-Verlander starters, who all average around six. Drafted in the seventh round in 2006, Fister never cracked a Baseball America top 30 Mariners prospect list, but he's become a solid mid-rotation innings eater. He's under team control through 2015 and won't be arbitration eligible until after next season.