SEATTLE – Dave Dombrowski and the Detroit Tigers hope they've grabbed the pieces to round out a playoff pitching staff. The Seattle Mariners just keep searching for the right pieces in their rebuilding efforts.
The Mariners shipped right-handed starter Doug Fister and righty reliever David Pauley to the Tigers on Saturday morning for outfielder Casper Wells, infielder Francisco Martinez, left-hander Charlie Furbush and a player to be named later.
Both Fister and Pauley were packing their belongings into boxes in the Mariners clubhouse ahead of Seattle's game against Tampa Bay. Pauley was noticeably emotional about leaving Seattle but also realized the opportunity he was getting to pitch in a pennant race.
The Tigers started Saturday 2½ games ahead of Cleveland and three games up on Chicago in the AL Central.
"The acquisition cost for a starting pitcher is very high right now, as you can see from the trades being made around the majors. There were times where I didn't think we would get a trade made," Dombrowski said. "Seattle was looking for some offensive help, and they liked Casper Wells a great deal, and they also liked Charlie Furbush, so those were names that were in this early on. We've probably talked 25 times in the last week."
Fister is just 3-12 this season but it's a misleading statistic as he's received no run support all season from Seattle's anemic offense. Fister has the lowest run support of any pitcher in the American League at just 1.97 runs per game and has lost his last seven decisions spanning 10 starts. But in those 10 starts, Fister has a 3.42 ERA with a pair of complete game losses and has thrown at least six innings in each start.
Fister will slot into the fifth spot in the Tigers rotation. Top prospect Jacob Turner made his major league debut on Saturday, but is headed back to Triple-A no matter the outcome. Fister's first start will come on Wednesday.
"We've had several pitchers in the fifth spot, and we haven't been able to get any consistent performance. Phil Coke deserved better than his record, but I think things are going better with him in the bullpen," Dombrowski said. "Fister doesn't have a great win-loss record, but that's misleading. He has the worst run support in the majors, and one of the best WHIPs. We definitely think that he makes us a better team, and that is important, because we feel like this is a team that can win something this season."
Pauley has been one of Seattle's top relievers and was surprised to be headed out of town just a day before the trade deadline. After missing out on a starting spot during spring training, Pauley accepted his bullpen role and is 5-4 with a 2.15 ERA in 39 appearances. He was originally intended to be a long reliever out of the pen, but instead became the Mariners main seventh and eighth inning bridge to closer Brandon League.
"Coming into a new role this year in the bullpen I came out of spring training and just told myself to make the best of it," Pauley said. "Things worked out all year. I was consistent most of the year. It puts that extra level of excitement to go and have a chance to be in the playoffs and possibly have the chance to win a championship."
Furbush and Wells will join Seattle's 25-man roster and be active for Sunday's game against the Rays. Martinez will be assigned to Double-A Jackson.
Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said the deal took on many forms over the three weeks he was talking with Dombrowski. He hopes that Wells can be the right-handed outfielder Seattle's been trying to find and potentially add a little pop. Furbush will ultimately be given a chance to start in Seattle, but manager Eric Wedge cautioned he'll probably need to be stretched out or used in shorter stints once he arrives. It also means that unless another deal takes shape, Seattle will go with a six-man rotation for the foreseeable future.
The gem of the deal for Seattle might be Martinez, rated as one of the top prospects in the Tigers organization. Seattle has major questions at third base both on its major league roster and in the minors, although prospect Kyle Seager made his major league debut earlier this month.
Zduriencik added Seattle has about three weeks to select from a group of three players as the final piece of the trade.
"In the end what we've done I think is help ourselves at the big league level adding a left-handed pitcher and a right-handed bat outfielder," Zduriencik said. "And I think we've given ourselves the chance to have an upside third baseman and have a very nice piece come to us in a period of time here."