On July 30, 2011, it was announced that the Seattle Mariners were going to trade young starting pitcher Doug Fister and scrappy reliever David Pauley to the Detroit Tigers for a pile of prospects. Those prospects ended up being outfielder Casper Wells, pitcher Charlie Furbush, third baseman Francisco Martinez and a player to be named who ended up being closer Chance Ruffin.
At the time of the trade, Fister had a 3-12 record with a 3.33 earned run average for the Mariners. Pauley had a 2.22 ERA in 39 games through 54.1 innings pitched. The offense-heavy Tigers needed some bullpen depth and at least one more quality starter. It seemed to them that they would be getting both from the Mariners.
The Mariners, already heavy in prospects, were getting what looked like a heavy sum for an up-and-coming starter and a good reliever. Wells was slugging .451 in Triple-A Toledo, Furbush owned a 1-3 record and 3.62 ERA as a reliever for the Tigers, Martinez (then only 20 years old) was hitting .282 with seven homers and 46 RBI in Double-A Erie and Ruffin was 3-3 with a 2.03 ERA between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo.
The prospect package of Wells, Furbush, Martinez and Ruffin turned out to be entirely a bust, and Fister has continued to excel with the Tigers. Pauley, on the other hand, struggled in 14 games with the Tigers, going 0-2 with a 5.95 ERA. He spent 2012 mostly in the minors, but went 0-1 with a 6.48 record with the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays.
Wells struggled with the Mariners, batting .216 with seven homers in 2011 and .228 with 10 homers in 2012 before being waived in 2013. He was claimed by the Blue Jays, purchased by the Oakland A’s (where he went 0-for-5) and then purchased again by the Chicago White Sox, where he is currently hitting .136.
Furbush struggled as a starter with the Mariners in 2011, going 3-7 with a 6.62 ERA. In 48 games in 2012, he went 5-2 with a 2.72 ERA. He is one of the main figures in Seattle's bullpen today, currently 0-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 23 appearances.
Ruffin, then a closer prospect, went 1-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 13 relief appearances for the Mariners in 2011. Since then, he hasn’t played in the big leagues and is being converted to a starter in Double-A Jackson.
What really makes the Doug Fister trade a bust is Francisco Martinez. The prospect struggled with Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma and was converted to an outfielder. The Mariners traded Martinez on Sunday back to the Tigers for a player to be named. Detroit plans on salvaging his career and moving him back to third base.
Fister, who the Mariners practically gave up for free, went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA with the Tigers in 2011. Last year, he went 10-10 with a 3.45 ERA (after some health issues), and this year he's 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA. He is the Tigers' dominant No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander.