Some thoughts on today’s trade with Tigers

Doug Fister was only 3-12 with the Mariners this season, but there's little question he pitched far better while enduring the lowest run-support in the Major Leagues. (Getty Images/Jim McIsaac)

A couple observations from today’s Mariners trade that sent Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers for four young players.

– From a strictly personal view, I always hate losing players who are good guys in the clubhouse, good to work with from a media standpoint. And to me, Fister and Pauley are two of the best.

Pauley took this morning’s news pretty hard. He was red-eyed in the clubhouse when talking initially between hugs with teammates and coaches as he began packing up his locker. He fought back tears several times, admitting the news blindsided him.

He spoke about how it’d be nice to join a team in a playoff chase and play close to his wife’s home in Michigan, but between those statements he kept stopping to wipe away tears that came from saying goodbye to guys he obviously enjoyed playing baseball with the past couple years.

An hour later, Pauley had composed himself when meeting with a larger media group alongside Fister. But make no mistake. Major League Baseball might be a big-time business and professional athletes get lots of perks, but they’re also human beings and being uprooted from friends and co-workers that you like isn’t always an easy thing.

– Lots of reporters complain about Fister’s bland personality, but the more I got to know the big right-hander, the more I enjoyed talking to him. He’s an interesting guy who still wants to become a school teacher some day and loves talking to kids. He’s a down-to-Earth sort who was telling me just this week how much he enjoyed pitching at Yankee Stadium for the first time. And when he’s on the field, the guy is an absolute bulldog who got the most out of his abilities every time out.

Fister is also a far better pitcher than his 3-12 record this year, as most Seattle fans know. Much of that was the incredible lack of run support. The team scored 10 runs in his 12 losses, which is next to unbelievable. He wound up with a no-decision in the game in D.C. when the bullpen blew a 5-1 lead in the ninth. He took a 1-0 loss to the Padres in the game the only run scored after the umpire issued a three-ball walk to Cameron Maybin, who then came around and score.

It seemed like every series, Fister was running into CC Sabathia or Jered Weaver or whatever stud the other team was rolling out and his luck just never evened out this year.

All that said, it will be interesting to see how Fister does with Detroit. Without question, he benefitted from pitching half his games in Safeco Field, where he was 9-16 with a 3.42 ERA in 35 games in his career. On the road, he’s 3-14 with a 4.40 ERA.

Those numbers were far more even this season and, despite his lousy win-loss record, he seemed to take a big step forward this year. So I think he can be a quality middle-of-the-rotation guy for the Tigers. And obviously he’ll enjoy working with a more-potent Detroit lineup.

– As for a strictly baseball evaluation, it sounds odd, given Fister’s 3-12 record, but I give GM Jack Zduriencik credit for “selling high” with Fister and Pauley. Some fans are naturally upset because both had pitched well for the Mariners this year. But realistically, these are two right-handers in their late-20s who seem to be squeezing every ounce of potential out of themselves this season.

If they keep doing that with the Tigers, they’ll be valuable additions this season and perhaps beyond. But neither is an irreplaceable part of the Mariners’ future puzzle. They aren’t “high upside” guys, they’re “high effort” guys who are great to have on a good team, but not guys who’ll take you to the next level on their own.

In return, the Mariners got two Major League ready players in outfielder Casper Wells and left-handed pitcher Charlie Furbush, plus at least one potential high upside prospect in third baseman Francisco Martinez, a 20-year-old already playing Double-A ball who was in the Futures Game earlier this month.

And Zduriencik was pretty clear that the Player to Be Named Later in the deal is more than just a throw-in. A reason for a PTBNL in this scenario is that players can’t be traded until a year after they have signed their contract after being drafted. And the Tigers have a couple top prospects that fall in that category, including promising closer Chance Ruffin, a first-round “sandwich” pick (48th overall) a year ago out of the University of Texas.

Ruffin, 22, posted 17 saves and 55 strikeouts in 43 innings for Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo this season before getting a quick promotion to the Tigers and pitching a pair of games recently. He was just sent back down, but clearly he’s a bright young prospect and the sort of player that could change the complexion of the Fister-Pauley trade in the future.

We’ll learn a little more about Wells and Furbush upon their arrival Sunday at Safeco and through the final two months of this season. And we’ll just have to wait and see on Martinez and the PTBNL. As with all trades, fair judgment won’t come for several years. And in this case, we can’t even pretend to begin evaluating until at least learning who the fourth player will be in a couple weeks.

2 Comments

Definitely not going to miss the game tomorrow as we begin to watch this all play out. Not really excited about losing Fister either, but to get this team hitting again may take drastic measures. This is only the beginning I’m afraid.

I just have a feeling that Fister is going to be another one of those Mariners that we let get away and turns out to be a star for another team.

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