Detroit Tigers Acquire Doug Fister

The Detroit Tigers made a move that will help them today and in the future, acquiring starting pitcher Doug Fister from the Seattle Mariners. The Tigers will also receive reliever David Pauley, and will send Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez and a PTBNL to Seattle.

With Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello already in place, the Tigers headed into the trade deadline looking for a back-end starter. Fister, owner of a 3.33 ERA, will slide in nicely behind Detroit’s other arms. While Fister’s ERA is certainly a result of Safeco Field and the Mariners’ defense, he is by no means a product of a great situation. Fister’s xFIP currently sits below 4.00, as does his SIERA. While his league-average numbers are all well and good, Fister’s value comes from his contract situation. The 27-year old won’t be arbitration eligible until 2013, giving the Tigers another year or two of very cheap production.

In Pauley, the Tigers are hoping to get some immediate relief help, but they will likely be disappointed. Pauley started the season on a tear, but his numbers have fallen hard to Earth. The 28-year old has experience as a starter, so he will be giving the Tigers depth at a low cost, if nothing else.

The Mariners’ rationale seems pretty clear: the team needs offense, and they are confident they can find a pitcher who can thrive in Safeco Field. Seattle already has Blake Beaven to take over for Fister, and with James Paxton pitching in Double-A and the potential to add draftee Danny Hultzen to the mix, Jack Zduriencik must have felt that Fister was not going to be a huge part of the Mariners’ future.

Wells, a 26-year old outfielder, will probably step right in and play left field for Seattle, giving him an extended audition for next season. The right-hander doesn’t necessarily do one thing that stands out, but he does have good pop and should be a very good platoon bat, at the very least.

Furbush could step in right away and enter the Mariners rotation, but it appears he will be in Seattle’s bullpen, at least for the time being. The 25-year old left-hander has had troubles with the home run ball in the minors, but playing in spacious Safeco will help alleviate those concerns. Furbush probably isn’t more than a back of the rotation starter, but he could turn into a good lefty out of the pen should the Mariners decide to continue down that road. He clearly has more value in the rotation, so the team would be much better off giving him a chance to start.

While Wells and Furbush are okay, most think that Martinez will be the equalizer in this trade. Martinez is still quite raw, but he has held his own as a 20-year old in Double-A. He needs to work on his plate discipline and is more projection than production at this point, but there is a chance he could develop into a starting third baseman in the next two years.

All that being said, I bet you are wondering, “who won this trade?” The Tigers make out well in this deal because they did not mortgage any pieces of their future and received a player who will give them plenty of surplus value over the next few years. The Mariners dealt from a position they feel is a strength to improve the overall depth of their system, but if Jack Z. and Co. view Furbush as a reliever, this deal will not be looked at in a favorable light. There is still a PTBNL to be dealt with, and there is always a chance that player could tip the scales dramatically, but ultimately this deal is one that could end up working for both sides, with the Tigers seeing more of a direct and guaranteed impact.

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Zach is the creator and co-author of RotoGraphs' Roto Riteup series, and RotoGraphs' second-longest tenured writer. You can follow him on twitter.

35 Responses to “Detroit Tigers Acquire Doug Fister”

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  1. Ryan says:

    Verlander/Scherzer/Porcello/Fister/Turner could be fun in 2012 and beyond.

    There’s also a lot of potential for”______er, barely even knew her!” jokes.

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  2. Robbie G. says:

    Sneaky good trade for Detroit here. Was Doug Fister’s trade value much less than it should’ve been because of the poor and, of course, meaningless W-L record? I bet it was; shame on teams for still thinking that W-L record means a thing.

    Isn’t Doug Fister the #2 starter in Detroit, rather than the #4 starter? Or at least #2b? WAR for Fister, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello in 2010 and 2011:


    Fister 3.0
    Scherzer 1.7
    Porcello 1.6


    Fister 2.9 in 28 starts (first full season in the bigs)
    Scherzer 3.7 in 31 starts
    Porcello 1.9

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  3. Stringer Bell says:

    Casper’s defense actually stands out, so he does have a plus skill in a corner position. And he’s a better hitter right now than anyone else in that lineup sans for Ackley and Smoak, but that’s more of a statement on how much that offense sucks.

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  4. Rex says:

    I think the return the Mariners received is being underrated. Casper seems like a pretty capable outfielder. Furbush will be either a back end starter or plus lefty reliever, and Martinez is a legitimate propsect, not top 100 at this point, but someone who could definitely turn into an above average player. Granted, Fister is having an excellent year, but I’m still skeptical about his future ability. He does not strike out many batters and has an incredibly low hr/fb. Whether it is because of underrating the return or overrating Fister, the Mariners and Tigers struck a truly mutually beneficial deal today. Hats off to Double D and Jack Z.

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  5. MC says:

    To be honest I don’t understand this trade from the M’s perspective. I support the idea of trading Fister and Pauley – but only if they get *something* in return.

    The Tigers got some cheap starting pitching, which isn’t easy to come by, and the M’s got mediocre young players back at best. I would rather if they traded Fister and Pauley for ONE excellent offensively-oriented prospect, which the M’s most desperately need.

    It’s pretty pathetic when you look at a club’s box score and there isn’t anyone cracking the .400 mark in slugging (I bit of hyperbole there).

    This reaks of that awful Brandon League/Johermyn Chavez for Brandon Morrow trade (awful from the Mariners perspective). Yea this trade is a dud for the M’s. I actually despise GM’s who like to tinker (just making trades for the sake of making a trade). Z and Beane have been doing a lot of those lately.

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    • tylerv says:

      Can someone explain why League for Morrow is awful from the M’s perspective? Morrow is not good.

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      • wobatus says:

        Morow’s xfip is under 3.30, and he starts. league has been good this year, but he relieves, and thus throws fewer innings, thus is less valuable than Morrow. Hindsight is 20/20 of course. Morrow’s wins above replacement (war) has been 6.4 since the trade, League’s 1.3. This year it’s 2.7 war versus .9, so 3x as valuable.

        I don’t know that war is the be all and end all of player value or trade evaluation, but it is unlikely that Morrow hasn’t been more valuable than League.

        I think this was a decent trade by the Mariners. Wells has averaged more WAR per plate appearance than any of the Tigers 3 starting outfielders over the past 2 years (Dirks only 1 year), and also more than Suzuki, Gutierrez and Carp over that time. Admittedly in a small sample size, but one that seems to echo his minor league production. In fact his 222 per PA is more than double all of the Tigers’ outfield starters and all of the Mariners’ outfield starters in that time.

        He’s produced at a 6+ WAR clip averaged over a full season. Safeco will hold him back a tad, and he may have been a little lucky, but I think he could be a 3-4 WAR guy. Fister had almost 3 last year, and already 3 this year, but Furbush may net some back, and Fister is helped some by Safeco.

        Detroit seems to love Safeco-inflated starters, although Fister has actually been better than just a safeco and Gutierrez d inflated starter.

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    • wobatus says:

      Well then it’s good they got Casper Wells in the deal, since his career slugging (sss alert) is .490.

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    • MC says:

      Whatever. Seems fangraphs is run by Mariners fans and no one can have an opinion slamming the almighty “Big Z”.

      THE MARINERS ALREADY HAVE 2 CASPER WELLSs. Their names are Greg Halman and Carlos Pequero. But I guess 3’s company. I’m not impressed by guys who slug .490 in the minors, then come up to the majors, put up a .320 OBP and strike out 200 times. Spare me.

      Also WAR over 100 AB’s is meaningless.

      Let me explain why Marrow for League was bad: would you rather have a guy give you 150 innings and 150 strikeouts a year? Or an inconsistent so-called “closer”. Even by your flawed WAR metric, Morrow has had a higher cumulative WAR since the trade than League.

      Also the sarcastic tone of the comments is a bit irritating. If you guys are so smart or at least think you are, why the heck are you commenting on a blog instead of actually working for a baseball team (concession stand doesn’t count). Baseball is supposed to be a GAME remember? It’s about FUN…if you want a serious topic for debate let me suggest the Constitutionality of the TSA.

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      • MC says:

        Some more about Brandon Morrow: The guy is #8 in the AL in K’s, he is #29 in the AL in WHIP at 1.32 – therefore the high ERA is misleading. If he continues at his present pace, he’ll give the Jays 170 IP and 200K’s this year. Not bad.

        My point is he is only 27, still developing as a pitcher, and you can’t chalk this trade off to “hindsight” – it’s not fortune telling to say that young power pitchers usually need time to learn how to pitch and generally their stats get better with age as they do so.

        If I had a baseball team, which I obviously, don’t, I would do the Brandon League for Morrow deal ANY DAY OF THE WEEK, any time of day, and I would do it 100 times. I really wouldn’t care what the folks on fangraphs thought because I would be getting a power pitcher. Closers are expendable. It’s far easier to close than it is to start. Just ask Jason Isringhausen or a 100 other guys with John Smotlz being the only exception that comes to mind who was able to switch back and forth.

        I think he will continue to get better and better as he gets older.

        Like I said whatever.

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  6. Chad Schobert says:

    It may just be spin, but there are reports that the PTBNL is arguably the centerpiece of the deal, which if true would change the complexion of the trade quite a bit . . .

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  7. dbp john says:

    You have a guy that is slugging over .400 now in Casper Wells.

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  8. M's Fan says:

    Looks as though it will be one of their top 3 picks from last year…. Citing
    So that ptnl could be worth it afterall.
    I was a fister fan but honestly, it is easy to find a tolerable pitcher for Safeco so I can’t knock the move too much (yet…).

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    • MC says:

      Yea none of those 3 guys look that good. On MLB network, they said the center piece of the deal is Francisco Martinez, as he is only 20 yet playing in AA.

      Yea but they neglected to mention that he’s never put up good numbers.

      What a weird deal…I thought they could’ve gotten more for Fister. However it is true that Fister has pretty bad home/road splits.

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      • Jeff says:

        You’re crazy if you think Martinez has more upside than Nick Castellanos.

        The Tigers would be stupid to include him though – most likely Smyly.

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      • The Ancient Mariner says:

        Jeff — huh? Neither he nor anyone else said Martinez has more upside than Castellanos — the comparison was never even raised.

        Smyly, Fields, and Rob Brantly are the names people seem to be kicking around most for the PTBNL.

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      • Jeff says:

        “none of those 3 guys look that good”

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      • philosofool says:

        I’m pretty sure we should set aside whatever MLB Network says as a matter of entertainment, not analysis.

        There’s no “center piece” for Seattle here, unless (what is unlikely) Castellanos is the PTBNL. The value for Seattle has to do with quantity rather than top-shelf quality.

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      • mscharer says:

        I doubt Fields will be the PTBNL, he was a 2009 draftee. I think its Brantly. Tigers drafted a C with their 1st pick this yr. Plus, they moved Smyly up to double AA today… doesn’t make sense to promote him if you are just gonna deal him in a month.

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      • MC says:

        Jeff – if you actually read my post you would see that I actually QUESTIONED MLB network’s assessment of Francisco Martinez hence the phrase “Yea but they neglected to mention that he’s never put up good numbers”; i.e. I am more pessimistic than they were about Martinez.

        I personally don’t like “projecting” prospects primarily on the basis of age; i.e. Player A is 20 and has X numbers while Player B is 22 and also has X numbers, therefore Player A is 5 times better than Player B.

        WTF it is just baseball calm down. No one even watches this cr*p in any countries besides Latin America, America and Japan (joke). Europe can’t even spell “baseball.” My point is it’s just a game.

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  9. David says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Doug Fister becomes the new Jarrod Washburn, granted on a much smaller scale. Mid-level pitchers coming from Seattle tend to be over valued due to the M’s defense and the size of Safeco Field.

    I really like this trade for the Mariners. Beaven’s a younger Fister. Wells is an upgrade at LF, Furbush has a funny name and his HR problem should improve by moving to Seattle, and the M’s need a 3B. I trust Jack Z’s judgement.

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    • Jeff says:

      xFIP controls for his home run rate, thus away from Safeco he’s probably a league average pitcher at worst. Not Washburn at all.

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      • Griffin says:

        xFIP sets a pitchers HR/FB rate at league average. It’s quite possible, since Fister also went through an entire year last year, that he’s just better than normal at not giving up HR’s. In case you are going to say it’s because of his home ballpark, his HR/FB rate on the road this year is till only 6.4 percent. Last year, it was actually LOWER on the road.

        Also, if you look at Fister’s FIP compared to his ERA, it makes sense that he’s pitching decently well. Washburn came to Detroit with a mid-2’s ERA but had an FIP of over 4. He was bound to crash.

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  10. Ray says:

    Plus, the word on the street is the the PTBNL could be Castellanos, Smyly, Ruffin, or Brantly, all of which would be solid additions for Seattle. I would doubt that Castellanos is on that list given that they just gave up Martinez though.

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  11. philosofool says:

    The big thing that this article and several commenters leave out is the PTBNL. Rumors are that it will be Ruffin or Smyly. Of course, those are only rumors, but you can’t really evaluate the trade until later, when the player is named.

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  12. Techno_Viking- says:

    People seem to be undervaluing the ptbnl which is probably going to be one of their top three round picks. This doesn’t seem to be a bad trade from the M’s perspective.

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  13. Matt C says:

    Assuming the PTBNL isn’t Castellanos I think this is a good trade for both sides.(If it is then it’s a clear win for the M’s) I think it helps the M’s since they have depth in the rotation and can afford the loss of Fister and it helps the Tigers because Fister is obviously an upgrade over what they were throwing out and the guys they traded were expendable. Win Win in my books.

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  14. Baseball Jones says:

    Lots of astute Seattle fans out there! Nice to see.
    Here in Detroit the word is the PTBNL is a 2010 draftee who can’t be traded officially until next month. Obviously, it’s not Castellanos. Just get a look at the list and figure it out. Dombrowski’s drafts are always centered on pitchers, so that’s what he’s offered or agreed.
    Wells is still unknown in Detroit. His sample just wasn’t big enough but he’s a player with spunk. Furbush would’ve gotten a better look if the Tigers weren’t in a pennant race. Martinez was good but expendable. It seems both GMs knew what they were doing. In this day and age with so much data available it’s hard to skin someone. The Tigers get help now, Seattle gets it later. That’s the way deadline deals go. Good luck to the new Mariners. Nobody here was eager to see those guys go.

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  15. Barkey Walker says:


    How does that work, it’s never made sense to me.

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  16. Matt K says:

    Detroit fan here, I think it was a nice trade for both teams but was surprised that the Mariners didn’t go for all offense in a trade. Thought I’d throw in my 2 cents on the prospects involved for the Mariners fans out there-

    Furbush throws 89-91 with deception – racked up a lot of Ks in the minors and has continued that into the majors. He got rocked in a couple starts but I think he’d make a great lefty option out of a bullpen in the future. I’d try him as a starter to the point of failure, though. Wells progressed slowly but surely through the system to the point where he was essentially the team’s 4th OF. I’d say (and so would the metrics) that he was the Tigers best defensive outfielder, and he’s solid at all 3 spots. He entered a lot of games as a defensive replacement for Maggs or Boesch. He has power but poor plate discipline. On a balanced team he’d be able to fill a corner OF spot and hit at the bottom of the order. Not sure how it’ll play out in the weak Mariners lineup though. Fransisco Martinez is a tools guy who’s just be so-so in the production department. Kind of reminds me of a slower infield version of Juan Encarnacion. Actually, Martinez’s defense at 3B in the minors has been so bad that he’ll probably have to move to LF or 1B.

    Outside of Castellanos, the PTBNL candidates are usual run of the mill Tigers draft picks – power arm college pitchers. Ruffin has already had a cup of coffee in the bigs and Smyly is already in AA. Personally I think Ruffin has the most value as a tailor made late inning reliever. Smyly can also miss some bats and reminds me of Andy Oliver.

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