By Sean Gagnier
Last July the Tigers approached the trade deadline and pulled the trigger on a deal that sent right-handed pitcher Doug Fister and right-handed pitcher David Pauley to Detroit and sent left-handed reliever Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells, third base prospect Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later to the Pacific Northwest. The player to be named was relief pitcher Chance Ruffin.
On the surface the trade looked to be solid - the Tigers got a pitcher that statistically out pitched Justin Verlander in the second half of the season and a relief pitcher that had recently dominated out of the bullpen in Seattle. Some thought that with the inclusion of Ruffin to the deal the Tigers may have paid too much - and they may have just been proven right.
While Fister shone once the spotlight was on him, it was a different story entirely for Pauley. After being acquired Pauley struggled in his outings and because of this his playing time was drastically reduced by manager Jim Leyland.
Some thought that his struggles may have been short lived and he might be able to compete for a role in the bullpen coming out of spring training, but the same problems that effected Pauley last season continued to plague him in Lakeland, Fla. He struggled to find control and gave up too many hits for General Manager Dave Dombrowski and Leyland who cut him in the first round of roster cuts during spring training.
Looking back on the deal that sent Pauley to Detroit one has to wonder if the Tigers did pay too high of a price. While the acquisition of Fister is something that will benefit the Tigers for years in the future the question of the need of Pauley remains. Did Detroit really need to have him included in the deal? Did his addition to the trade tip the scales in favor of the Mariners in the end?
A breakdown of the trade looks like this - the Mariners were not going to part easily with Fister and would have required Furbush and Wells regardless of any players being included in the deal. The inclusion of Martinez to the trade may have still been needed to bring Fister to Detroit, but in any way the Tigers had top-prospect Nick Castellanos sitting at third base just a few seasons away from starting at the hot corner in Detroit. With Castellanos in the wings the Tigers deemed Martinez as expendable and included him in the deal.
That trade, a three-for-one deal, would have been acceptable for many Tigers fans and would have still benefited Detroit down the stretch. But the player-to-be-named-later inclusion pushed the scales in favor of Seattle. Chance Ruffin, the player who was named later, had shown in the minors that he had skill and could be a solid bullpen pitcher in the near future. He did not perform well in his time with the Tigers, mainly due to Leyland's penchant for throwing rookies into the game in high-pressure situations.
While it may take a number of years for Ruffin to make the big-leagues, when he does, he will prove to be a dependable arm out of the bullpen. If the Mariners hang on to the players they acquired in the Fister deal, they could come out quite ahead in this deal but as of now, with Pauley released and Ruffin sitting in Mariners' camp the balance of this trade is pointing towards Seattle.