Why the Tigers Should Sign Doug Fister in the Offseason

The 2015 Detroit Tigers starting pitching experiment has not gone to plan. Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene came out of the gates firing strikes and generally pitching extremely effectively. The results since have been awful.

Even with his one-hit shutout of the Texas Rangers, Simon’s ERA over his last 13 starts is 7.83. 7.83!

Greene’s ERA over his last 15 appearances isn’t much better. In fact, it’s worse. The former Yankee’s ERA is 9.35 over that span.

Going on those nuggets of information, it makes sense that the Tigers will target starting pitching this offseason.

One starting pitcher the team should target is former Tiger Doug Fister.

Fister has had a rough go of things in the capital this season, posting a 4.45 ERA in 21 appearances. The Nationals have shuttled him to the bullpen, where he’s made six appearances and allowed eight runs in 11 innings.

It’s safe to say he probably won’t be back in with the Nats com next year.

The Tigers should sign him.

Not only is Fister a known commodity to the Tigers, but he also won’t be too expensive. The former Mariner would likely be out of the Tigers’ price range if he put up his usual excellent numbers this year, but he’s struggled, so here we sit.

Justin Verlander and Daniel Norris are the only real locks for the Tigers to be in the rotation next season. Matt Boyd has showed flashes of potential so far in his rookie season, and could start again next season. Another incumbent who could return (should he decide to stave off retirement) is the ageless-wonder Randy Wolf. The other two members of the Tigers’ current staff (Alfredo Simon and Anibal Sanchez) could move on. Like Fister, Simon is a free agent at season’s end and will likely depart. Sanchez’ salary could be flipped for another big contract if Detroit needs to vacate a spot in the rotation for a new arrival.

(RELATED: Detroit Tigers 2016 Pitching Staff: Locks, Uncertainties and Likely Departures).

Fister makes all the sense in the world for Detroit, especially given his success at Comerica Park. The right-hander has posted a 3.18 ERA in 232 innings at the Tigers’ home stadium. Over those 232 innings he’s made 35 starts, striking out 180 batters and allowing opponents to hit only .255 against him.

The potential situation makes even more sense when you consider that the Tigers don’t want to rush any of their prospects making their way through the minors. Adding Fister on a short-term contract to act as a place-holder for young arms such as Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. The move would also allow Fister to rebuild his value in search of a bigger contract.

Detroit needs starters and, barring a change of events, Doug Fister will likely be available on the free agent market this coming offseason. Given the likely high cost of other starters, the Tigers should jump at the chance to bring the comparatively-cheaper Fister back into the fold. It would benefit all parties.

Not only would it benefit all parties, but it would allow new Tigers general manager Al Avila to (in a way) make up for one of his predecessor’s biggest mistakes.

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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Seattle Mariners: Jack Zduriencik’s Best and Worst Trades

Jack Zduriencik’s tenure in Seattle wasn’t the most successful. While he was able to sign Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz and managed to hang on to Felix Hernandez¸ he never guided the Seattle Mariners to the playoffs.

A lot of this—well, most of it—has to do with personnel changes. Zduriencik made few trades where he was considered the outright winner. In that vein, he lost a number of trades. Here are some of his best (and mostly) worst trades.

We’ll start with the good news before delving into the bad.

Best—Acquiring Cliff Lee

Zduriencik did extremely well to bring in Lee to pair with Hernandez at the top of the rotation. In fact, he was very Dombrowski-esque with his fleecing of the Phillies. He unloaded three prospects (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez) who failed to make much of an impact in Philadelphia and are no longer with the team. Aumont posted a 3.42 FIP in his first two seasons (40 appearances) with the Phils, but then posted an ugly 11.71 FIP in his next seven appearances. Those seven appearances spanned last season and this season. He’s with the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate. Gillies never hit well in the minors and was out of the organization before he could reach the majors. He’s currently with the Padres Double-A team. Ramirez has actually made a positive impact in Major League Baseball this season—with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He owns a 4.11 ERA in 12 relief appearances. See folks, something positive did come out of this.  

Lee was exceptional during his short stay in Seattle, earning All Star honors while going 8-3 with a 2.34 and an even more generous 2.16 FIP. He posted a 14.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio. No, that isn’t a typo. Lee was later traded, which will be touched on later.

Best—Trading Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales

Very rarely do division rivals make trades magnitude, but that’s what Zduriencik did with the Angels. He flipped Vargas, who was a serviceable, middle/ back-end of the rotation starter in Seattle, to Anaheim for Morales.

Vargas posted a respectable 4.09 ERA/4.36 FIP in 702.2 innings for the M’s, but only managed a 36-42 record over that span due to poor run support. He was never a prolific strikeout pitcher (5.7 Ks per nine innings as a Mariner), but he did post a cumulative 6.6 WAR during his time in Seattle. As dependable as he was, Zduriencik needed a bat, so he acquired Morales.

In his first season in Seattle, Morales drove in 80 runs, hit 23 home runs and hit .277. He also smacked 34 doubles over 156 games. Exactly what the M’s needed, however the team failed to make the playoffs, finishing 71-91.

Now for the bad trades…

Worst—Reacquiring Morales and Russell Branyan

The Mariners traded for Morales (from the Minnesota Twins) and Branyan (from the Cleveland Indians) less than a season after letting each walk in free agency. At the end of the day, the team lost Stephen Pryor, Ezequiel Carrera and Juan Diaz in the deals. While none of the three have gone on to become world-beaters, it still begs the question, why didn’t you just re-sign Morales and Branyan in the first place?

To make matters worse, Morales only hit .207 in his second go-around with Seattle while Branyan managed a paltry .215 batting average.

Worst– Dealing Michael Morse for Ryan Langerhans

Morse hit .300 in 107 games for Seattle from 2005 to 2008, but was never given much of a consistent opportunity. Seattle flipped him for Langerhans, a man who hit exactly .200 in 117 games for the M’s from 2009 to 2011.

From 2009 to 2011, Morse hit .295 with 49 home runs and a .889 OPS for the Washington Nationals, posting a 5.1 WAR. Langerhans’ WAR over that span? 0.8.

There goes four-plus wins.

Worst—Trading Cliff Lee to Texas

While Zduriencik pulled off a heist in acquiring Lee, he fumbled mightily when trading the ace.

For a half season of Lee, the M’s brought in Matt Lawson, Blake Beavan, Josh Lueke and Justin Smoak.

Behold, the disappointment.

Lawson never made it past Double-A with the Mariners and was dealt to Cleveland. He last played for the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate in 2013.

The second prospect acquired in the trade, Beavan, was passable as a back-of-the-rotation arm in 2012, posting an 11-11 record with a 4.43 ERA. In 152.1 innings. However, in 2013 he put up a 6.13 earned run average in 12 appearances and was transitioned to the bullpen. Beavan made a spot start in 2014, but never pitched for the Mariners again.

Lueke posted a 6.06 ERA in 25 innings while wearing an M’s jersey, before being flipped to the Tampa Bay Rays for John Jaso. Jaso was fantastic in his only season in the Emerald City, hitting .276, driving in 50 runs and posting a 3.4 WAR. However, he too was dealt—this time for Morse, who had regressed from the home-run crushing Goliath form he displayed in Washington D.C. to more of a bench bat.

Justin Smoak’s time in Seattle can probably be summed up in one stat.

The current Blue Jay has accumulated a 0.9 WAR in five years with the Mariners. This season, his WAR with Toronto is 0.7. Smoak never quite developed into the middle-of-the-order masher the M’s envisioned.

Worst—Giving Away Doug Fister

This trade may be the worst of all.

Zduriencik dealt away Fister (and David Pauley) for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin.

Furbush has been about the only dependable (if at all consistent) player the M’s acquired. He owns a 3.53 FIP as a Mariner and has been worth a 1.2 WAR since touching down in Seattle. After that it gets sketchy.

Martinez struggled in the M’s minor league system before actually returning to the Detroit organization where he currently plays in the low minors. Wells has also returned to Detroit since the trade, but the outfielder has now become a bit of a journeyman. He played for three different teams in 2013 and hasn’t seen action in the majors since.

Ruffin threw 23.2 innings for the Mariners before abruptly retiring. He struck out 30, but also allowed 16 runs.

To make matters worse, Fister excelled in Detroit. He piled up 32 wins in three seasons in Motown while posting a sparkling 3.20 FIP while becoming a dependable/effective postseason pitcher. His WAR in three seasons in Detroit was 9.9.

Just to compare, the players traded for Fister collectively own a career 4.3 WAR.

The trade was so lopsided that the good people at Homer’s Apparel made a t-shirt about the deal.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted. 

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Players the Seattle Mariners Could Move at the MLB Trade Deadline

The Seattle Mariners came into the season with a realistic chance at contending. They added Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith to an offense that already features Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. The team also brought back many of the same standout pitchers that helped propel the team on the mound.

Things haven’t gone as planned.

Only the white-flag waiving Oakland Athletics sit below Seattle in the American League West, so it may be time for the team to trade some pieces.

The team isn’t going into full rebuild mode, but rather “reload” mode. Expiring contracts who aren’t likely to stick around are some of the more likely players to be dealt. Consistently underperforming players should be shopped as well. In other words, Felix Hernandez, Cano and the rest of the team’s core aren’t going anywhere.

Here are some of the players who could be traded.

Logan Morrison, 1B

First base is a power position—or rather, players with a significant of power/run-driving in ability play there. Presenting Logan Morrison, a first baseman with only 12 home runs and a paltry .222 batting average and a .665 OPS.

Seattle should be selling teams on Morrison being a quality bench bat, because he hasn’t worked so far as a Mariner. The former Miami Marlin owns a .242 batting average and 23 home runs in 193 games with the M’s. That’s simply not cutting it, especially for a team in need of offensive-minded players.

Austin Jackson, CF

This one is tough. Jackson has the potential to be an impact offensive player, as well as a plus defender, but like Morrison he hasn’t hit in Seattle. Throw in his impending free agent status at the end of the season and you have two prime reasons to deal the former Detroit Tiger.

The M’s did well to acquire Jackson for Nick Franklin, but the centerfielder has struggled in the Emerald City. He entered Seattle as a career .277 hitter. This has translated to a disappointing .243 batting average and .598 OPS with the M’s.

He’s likely going to cost a good deal of money, so Seattle would be best off trading him for a good (but probably not great) return, and invest in another centerfielder in free agency.

J.A. Happ, Hisashi Iwakuma SP

Another impending free agent, J.A. Happ has been solid for the Mariners this season. He owns a quality 3.77 FIP (second lowest to Felix on the team) and has been a stabling presence in the rotation.

Iwakuma, on the other hand, hasn’t posted the numbers that saw him net Cy Young and MVP votes in 2013. He hasn’t posted the numbers that helped him win 15 games and post a sub-4 ERA/FIP (3.52, 3.25) last season.

Still, Seattle needs to make room in the rotation. Felix is an obvious lock and Taijuan Walker, Mike Montgomery, James Paxton and Roenis Elias aren’t going to fit into three spots. As it stands, the team’s rotation in four years is going to be Felix and the previously mentioned four. It’s plausible to keep Iwakuma around for another year or two, but he would bring much more in a trade than Happ given his track record. Seattle should be actively shopping Happ, while listening on Iwakuma.

Fernando Rodney, RP

This one is obvious. Rodney has been abysmal out of the bullpen for the Mariners, and dealing him will free up more innings for relievers like Vidal Nuno and Tom Wilhelmsen. Rodney is a free agent at season’s end, so the team should trade him for whatever they can get. Carson Smith, Mark Lowe, Joe Beimel and a soon-to-be-healthy Charlie Furbish leave the team with enough quality relievers so that Rodney wouldn’t be missed.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

The Seattle Mariners’ Bizarre Triple Play vs the Blue Jays

Detroit Tigers Lineup vs the Seattle Mariners 7/22/15

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Detroit Tigers: Regardless of Buying or Selling, Bullpen Must be Fixed

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, the Detroit Tigers bullpen imploded, costing them the game—against the offensively anemic Seattle Mariners no less.

Detroit lost the contest Tuesday by a score of 11-9 in a game that sums up the bullpen problems in Detroit.

The Tigers essentially have three reliable relievers bridging the gap to the equally reliable Joakim Soria. However, Al Alburquerque, Alex Wilson and Blaine Hardy can’t pitch every game. Heck, every other game for all three is probably too much. The word “burnout” is going to make its way into the headlines eventually if that happens.

Outside of those three, the Tigers don’t have much. The team’s hope is that Neftali Feliz and Bruce Rondon join the “reliable” fraternity. But at this point, it’s just that– a hope. Feliz served up the grand slam to Franklin Gutierrez that gave the M’s the win on Tuesday, while Rondon’s ERA has hovered around nine as of late.

The reality is simple for the Tigers, their bullpen isn’t working—and must be fixed. The Tigers have tried almost everything. It’s gotten to the point where the players who aren’t performing have to be shuffled on. Whether it be optioned to Triple-A Toledo, or designated for assignment, Detroit has to try different options.

Regardless of if they’re “buyers” or “sellers” at the trade deadline, the Tigers’ brass must fix the bullpen.

Soria, Alburquerque, Wilson and Hardy are keepers, but the rest is in serious question. Feliz was solid up until he surrendered the grand slam to Gutierrez, and may be worth keeping around given his track record. Rondon has tremendous potential, but might benefit from a stint in the minors. Ian Krol has been better of late, but still owns a rather ugly ERA (5.87).

There are a number of low-buy relievers on the market, an area in which Detroit should be actively searching for a replacement—searching to the point that the team is throwing any reliever they can acquire at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Krol and Rondon should be optioned to the minors in order to make room for the new additions. It seems drastic, but the team needs all the help it can get.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers Lineup vs Seattle Mariners

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Ian Kinsler’s Improved Play a Good Sign for the Detroit Tigers

Ian Kinsler may have just provided the Detroit Tigers the spark the team so desperately needed.

The second baseman went yard twice against the Seattle Mariners to give the Tigers a much needed win. The victory leveled Detroit’s record at 46-46 and instilled some hope into a situation that hasn’t been ideal.

Kinsler tends to go cold in the second half after strong starts to seasons. Case in point, his first-half, career batting average and OPS? .284 and .818. His second half numbers? .257 batting average, .714 OPS.

However, just as the Tigers have struggled in the first half, so too has Kinsler. The second baseman hit .283 in April/March before slumping to .262 in May and .242 in June. Again, just like the Tigers’ season, Kinsler’s recent play may be a sign of things to come.

The former Texas Ranger entered Monday’s contest with a scorching .328 batting average in the month of July.

His renewed offensive prowess will only benefit the Tigers.

Manager Brad Ausmus has written a number of different players’ names in the first two spots of the batting order. However, the one constant has been Kinsler. Whether hitting first or second, Kinsler has maintained the role of table setter.

Thanks to his recent hot-streak, he could be setting the table much more often. If Kinsler can consistently reach base with the hitting acumen he’s shown in July, the Tigers offense shouldn’t have problems down the stretch—Miguel Cabrera or no. Kinsler’s ability to reach base will present more RBI opportunities for hitters like Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes. Additionally, with bottom-of-the-order hitters Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose reaching at high rates, Kinsler will have a fair share of RBI opportunities himself.

This improved offense will help cover up the starting pitching struggles the Tigers have experienced as of late. More runs won’t mask the issue outright, but it will help.

For the Tigers, and their fans, Ian Kinsler’s tear at the plate is hopefully a sign of things to come. If anything, Monday’s game is the beginning of something special.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Detroit Tigers vs Seattle Mariners Lineups

(RELATED: Why the Detroit Tigers Should Sign Edwin Jackson)

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Detroit Tigers: Series Against Mariners is a Golden Opportunity

Things aren’t going according to plain in Detroit. Not a single soul thought the team would be below .500 this far into the season. Sure, the starting pitching would be taking a slight step back, but the defense would be much better, as would the bullpen. And oh yeah, the offense would still be dynamite.

But the Tigers started to miss breaks, for lack of a better term (you know, the opposite of catching breaks). Victor Martinez struggled out of the gate before missing a chunk of time on the disabled list. Justin Verlander was on the DL for the first two months of the season and has been up-and-down upon returning. Both Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene scuffled mightily after encouraging starts. Anibal Sanchez struggled initially (before settling down) and Miguel Cabrera is on a long, injury induced break.

Yeah, things aren’t great in Motown.

Throw in the potential free agent departures of David Price and Yoenis Cespedes as well as the fact that the Tigers will enter the week 10.5 games behind Kansas City in the Central and you have even more uncertainty.

But hey, the Mariners are coming to town!

The Seattle Mariners, owners of the American League’s worst record, come to Comerica for four games. Detroit went into cavernous Safeco Field just a few weeks ago and turned the pitcher’s park into a launch pad for home runs.

Detroit will face the same team that served up all those bombs, without Felix Hernandez. King Felix started at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, meaning he’ll miss the series. Instead, the Tigers will face Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Mike Montgomery and J.A. Happ.

During the series in Seattle, the Tigers scored 14 times combined against Iwakuma, Walker and Happ. They plated five against both Iwakuma and Walker, while they put four across against Happ. Happ’s home ERA is 2.66. His road ERA is 5.59.

Throw in a suspect Seattle bullpen and an offense that is Nelson-Cruz-and-no-one-else, Detroit has a major chance to get back into the thick of things. While Detroit is 10.5 games back in the division, they are a much more manageable 4.5 games back in the wild card.

This could be there chance to get on a roll and reenter the playoff race, if not the division race. Crazier things have happened.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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