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Fister Gone, Pauley Too

Casper Wells
As I drove home from the Mariners game last night*, I heard the news that Aaron Laffey would be sent down and Dan Cortes brought up. That immediately sounded fishy to me, in a way that screamed it was part of a bigger move. It seemed to indicate that Blake Beavan was going to stay in the rotation, and while some thought that was an indication of going with six guys, I thought it was more realistic that it mean Eric Wedge would go with five, and he and Jack Z knew that somebody wasn't much longer for the roster.

*I should warn you, my faithful readers, when I'm going to a Mariners game. I have a knack for picking awful ones. I should particularly warn you when I go to a game with my dad, because all we ever do is go to cold, rainy/misty affairs.

The answer came fast. Doug Fister and David Pauley are going to the Tigers in exchange for Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, and a player to be named later. Indications are that Wells and Furbush will join the team immediately. This deal must have been very close last night, because sending down Laffey left no lefties in the bullpen. However, acquiring Furbush fixes that.

To begin with, this is not the Jarrod Washburn deal with the Tigers all over again. Washburn had a couple months left on his contract, and as it turned out, his career. Fister has years of team control, and probably more pitching after that left in his tank. The Tigers did not make a rental this morning.

Before talking about whom the Mariners got in return, I give Jack Zduriencik an A+ on the players he sent to Detroit. As a fan, I will miss both Fister and Pauley, but these were the right guys on the roster to shop.

Fister was a very enjoyable pitcher to watch, with his quick pace and regular assaults on the strike zone. His stuff seemed to be a little better this year, most notably his fastball velocity, but he still was what he was - a pitcher that relies on contact. I wrote about pitching to contact a month ago, and while I think it tends to get underrated, it's a skill that the Mariners can manipulate. Safeco Field suppresses big hits with its expansive outfield, so any pitcher like Fister will tend to have a better ERA than they should playing in Safeco. Of course, as I write that, the difference between Doug's ERA and FIP does not bare that out, but the differences between his ERA and xFIP do.

All I am really trying to say is that Doug Fister, with all his contact, remaining years of team control, and rather sparkling 3.33 ERA so far this year, was never going to be worth more on the trade market than right now. I expect him to be good for the Tigers, and missed by the Mariners, but now was the time to trade him if the right deal came along.

The same can be said for David Pauley, only to more of an extreme. Pauley, even just a year ago, looked like a guy destined to float around AAA with fleeting call-ups in the majors from time to time. Of course, the Mariners tanked last year, Pauley got some extended innings as a result, and looked respectable enough to come to spring training this year with a legitimate chance to compete for a spot on the roster. He got that spot, and more, as he emerged in the bullpen with a stunning first half.

It's not quite all smoke and mirrors with Pauley, but darn close. He doesn't rack up many strikeouts, and really, I think we've already seen the best three months of his pro career. While Pauley seemed like a fun-loving guy in the one radio interview I heard of him, he was another sell-high candidate. Like Fister, he was never going to be worth more than right now.

Does the return justify the losses though?

Casper Wells is a right-handed corner outfielder that is relatively young, with a little pop, and a little defense. He owns a career .286 average in the majors thus far, though in only 224 at-bats over 2 seasons. The 2.4 WAR he has accumulated in that time suggests that he might be a solid everyday option, but ZIPS is quite pessimistic on his hitting moving forward. It sees a meager .232 average in his future, though with some power.

The low projection for Wells is likely tied to a relatively low walk rate, and a high strikeout rate. While that is concerning, Wells has posted at least a .330 wOBA at every level in which he has at least 200 at-bats, including the majors. Also, while Safeco is notorious for zapping right-handed power, Wells comes from Comerica Park, which has similarly spacious confines.

Charlie Furbush is a 6'5" southpaw that is 25 years old with a little upside remaining. Reportedly, he will get a chance to start, which surprises me a little given that the Mariners bullpen will have no lefties as a result. I guess that doesn't matter much in a season that is more about identifying pieces for next year at this point, but still interesting. Obviously, Furbush is like any pitcher - more valuable if he can be a dependable starter.

I don't know much about Furbush, and don't know much of what to make of his numbers. He has flashed high strikeout rates at times, even as a starting pitcher. He seems to rely on a fastball-curveball combo, the classic power pitcher tandem. In 32.1 innings in the majors this year (his whole MLB career to this point), hitters have only swung at 62.1% of his strikes. That seems somewhat low to me, which makes me wonder if the scouting report on him is to force him to throw strikes. It would make sense if he struggles to locate his curveball in the zone.

Furbush missed all of 2008 with Tommy John surgery, and has only a total of 167.1 innings between AA, AAA, and the majors. He may be 25 years old, but he isn't the most experienced 25-year-old you'll ever see, which is a good thing. That's where the upside comes from. There is a chance that Furbush refines his stuff and approach noticeably as he acclimates to the higher level of competition, and distances himself from major arm surgery.

Francisco Martinez is a 20-year-old third baseman already in AA ball. I have no idea what his defense is like, but his hitting is certainly rough around the edges, to say the least. Martinez strikes out quite a bit, and rarely walks. However, he does seem to make consistent contact, as evidenced by a .282 average with a fair share of extra base hits. He hails from Venezuela, and definitely seems to fit the mold of free-swingers that all of Latin America has a tendency to produce.

With that said, Martinez comes to the Mariners with some intrigue. He is quite young for the level he is playing at, for one, and youngsters tend to strike out more and walk less against more seasoned competition. What I like even more though is that Martinez has taken clear steps forward each of the past two years. Both his batting average and power continue to climb, even as he faces tougher competition.

We will have to wait and see who the player to be named later is, but regardless, I like this deal. It seems like the Mariners got a fair return for two sell-high candidates on their roster. The players coming back both replenish what was given up to a degree, while also addressing other needs on the roster. Doug Fister and David Pauley will be missed, but this roster obviously needed some new faces, and I look forward to seeing what Charlie Furbush and Casper Wells bring to the table the rest of the season.

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