Let’s start with last week’s trade first. The Ms traded David Pauley and Doug Fister to the Tigers in exchange for OF Casper Wells, SP Charlie Furbush, 3B Francisco Martinez, and some player to be named later who
probably won’t matter actually might be a decent prospect, according to Eric Wedge.
In the words of Mariner blog guy, Mike Snow, “Apparently the key to this deal was making sure both sides got equal upside potential for juvenile humor out of the names on the roster.”
To the numbers!
What we gave up:
David Pauley has been valuable for the Mariners this season, to be sure. A 2.15 ERA in about 54 innings of work primarily in the setup role is solid contribution, but there are reasons to believe he’s not going to be able to replicate that performance going forward. During his choppy career playing up and down between the minors and majors, Pauley has only struck out 5.5 batters per 9 innings. As a reliever this season? 5.6 K/9. If you check the chart on most valuable relievers the last three seasons, most are high strikeout guys. In fact none of the top 35 on that list have a K/9 figure below 6. To have success as a reliever, stranding baserunners is key, and strikeouts strand runners. Pauley is also now a relief pitcher, pitching in the 7th and 8th innings. It is not particularly hard to fill this role, relative to finding a starter or a shortstop for instance. In just about every way, David Pauley is replaceable.
Doug Fister is the key piece of this trade. Fister does not hit free agency until 2016, and team control is a valuable thing. On top of that, he’s a pretty good starter, too. Fister is not a strike out guy, posting a K/9 of 5.2 on his career–that’s even less than Pauley. Fister does three things very well: 1) He doesn’t walk very many batters (career 1.88 BB/9); 2) He doesn’t give up very many homeruns (just 7 allowed in 146 innings this year); and 3) He got a job at Safeco Field. The last 1.5 things that he does well involve his home stadium, and any pitcher that starts for the Mariners will enjoy that edge. Fister’s 1.88 BB/9 and 47% groundball rate combine with Safeco’s run-deflating prowess to create a valuable, young starter who probably won’t be able to maintain such low ERAs in the Tigers’ Comerica Park.
I believe he is an above-average starter, and 4 more years of team control make him a very valuable commodity. However, in terms of winning baseball games, that spot in the rotation can be filled someday soon by somebody else who would love to take advantage of Safeco, too.
What we get!
Casper Wells has played mostly in right field during his short career, but he can play left, too. I could just say, “Casper Wells can play left field, and his name is not Carlos Peguero,” and finish the article right there. But there’s more for anyone who cares to read on. In less than half a season’s worth of major league baseball, Wells has posted a triple slash line of .286/.341/.490. Making him miles better than just about every Mariner with any significant number of at bats besides Dustin Ackley (who might actually be God’s gift to Seattle). But you scream SMALL SAMPLE SIZE, as you should. In about 2000 minor league plate appearances, Wells has slashed a modest .252/.342/.494. The fact that he has outperformed that in the majors, even with the natural variations to small sample sizes, is obviously a good sign that he can adjust.
Looking to stats at the major league level that stabilize quickly, his 21%-strikeout rate suggests a .250 average is more expected that his sparkly .286 thus far in Detroit. Unfortunately he also doesn’t walk a lot (7%), and his primary strength, his power, won’t translate well in Safeco as a righty. Data from the minors doesn’t make his patience outlook appear any better–he struck out 487 times to just 181 walks. The good news is, he does have power, and he’ll only play half his games in Seatlle. The other bonus is that two shiny, newish fielding metrics, UZR and DRS, both rate him well above average in the outfield. Even with some regression to the mean, Wells will likely offer better defense than any Mariner left fielder in recent history. (His competition, of course, is not good.) Well is still young at 26, and the late twenties are known to treat a lot of batters well. He is under team control until 2016, so the Mariners will be paying relatively little, and taking advantage of what will probably be his best years.
In 386 minor league innings, Charlie Furbush struck out 406 batters, walking just 102. In his most recent seasons, that K/BB rate got slightly better despite playing higher competition. This is a good sign that Furbush adjusts quickly to better opponents. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and he brings a cutter, a curveball and a changeup to complement it. The cutter is all the rage these days. Roy Halladay decided he wasn’t good enough, and started throwing something cutter-like in 2004. He now throws it 46% of the time, and along with his curveball, it is his most valuable pitch. Am I saying that his cutter will make him the next Halladay? No. But it was a fun anecdote, right?
What is going to make Furbush possibly even more valuable to the Mariners than Fister has everything to do with Safeco Field. While they both get (got) the benefits of Safeco half the time, Safeco treats left-handed pitchers (like Furbush) even better than righties (like Fister). Safeco depresses homerun numbers to right-handed batters by nearly 20%. Righties generally hit better off lefties, but Safeco will do its part to neutralize Furbush splits against those righties. Anyone remember Jarrod Washburn?
In 2009, Washburn, a lefty, posted a 2.64 ERA for the Mariners before being traded to the Tigers. With the Tigers, he had a 7.33 ERA. Now, not all of that was the ballpark, but he allowed about three times more homeruns per flyball (HR/FB) in Comerica than Safeco that year. In his first season with the Tigers, Furbush is allowing more dingers than you’d like to see, but Safeco should really help him out with that. And it will help him more than it did Fister. Furbush’s contract information isn’t readily available on baseball-reference.com, but since this is his first season up in the majors, I’d guess he’s under team control through the 2017 season.
The third piece of this deal, Martinez, is a 20-year-old prospect who was playing in AA Erie for the Tigers. His minor league stats to this point are nothing impressive, but he’s only 20! Mike Snow over at USSMariner also points out that the Mariners have a glaring need at third base. I’m not sure when Martinez will be ready (if ever) to fill that role, so he seems more like organizational depth at this point. If anyone finds a good scouting report on him, feel free to post it in the comments section.
In the end, I feel like the Mariners came away with a pretty legit trade. Starting pitchers like Fister who have a proven track record of success with lots of team control left are incredibly valuable. But the Ms picked up a prospect in Furbush who is also under team control until I’m 30 years old (weird), and who could provide all that same value. Pauley was replaceable, and Wells could be platooned with Carp in left field to gain the lefty-righty matchup advantage on a nightly basis.
Next I will go over the Bedard trade!