Right-handers Fulmer, Cessa help restock farm system
By Jason Beck
BALTIMORE -- The last major piece of the Tigers' reboot plan went through on Friday afternoon. Detroit waited until the final hours before the 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline to put together a deal for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, who went to the Mets for right-handed pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa.
Cespedes was viewed as the second most valued talent among the Tigers' half-dozen pending free agents, behind Price. But while the Tigers were in line to get a Draft pick if they held onto Price and lost him to free agency, there was no such compensation in store for Cespedes, who has a clause in his contract requiring him to be released at season's end.
"If we didn't make a deal we weren't comfortable making, we would have walked away, even under the circumstances," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "It wasn't the preferable thing. You would have loved to have had him in our lineup for the next couple months, but it wasn't the preferable thing to do that."
The Tigers had enough interest that they weren't walking away. The only question left was what kind of prospect group they could get in return with several outfielders on the trade market. Though many saw Cespedes as the best of the bunch, there were enough other candidates that Detroit couldn't corner the market.
By Friday, Dombrowski said, the Tigers were talking with a half-dozen teams about Cespedes. The Mets had been in touch earlier in the week, before the Tigers went forward with plans to sell. It took a change of plans, the breakdown of the Carlos Gomez trade with Milwaukee, to bring the Mets and Tigers back into conversations.
"It changed, I'm sure, where they were going," Dombrowski said. "They probably wouldn't have had this interest -- in fact, I'm sure they wouldn't have -- if they had gotten Gomez."
The two sides had at least 20 conversations Friday, Dombrowski said. Most of them centered around Fulmer, the Mets' seventh-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com and a potential candidate for the Tigers' rotation next spring.
"We did not make this trade until 3:45," Dombrowski said. "We had asked for Fulmer the last couple of days and they said no. Finally they came back and we made the deal."
Fulmer, a first-round Draft pick of the Mets in 2011, is 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Binghamton. One American League talent evaluator says Fulmer brings a closer's mentality in a starting role.
"We consider Fulmer a real premier-type guy," Dombrowski said.
Fulmer will stay in the Eastern League, joining the rotation at Double-A Erie.
Cessa, a 23-year-old converted infielder, has actually pitched at a higher level, reaching Triple-A, but he spent most of the season at Double-A. He went 7-4 with a 3.56 ERA at Binghamton, and 0-3 in five starts for Las Vegas. His mid-90s fastball could play in a relief role, though his future for now appears to be in a starting rotation.
Cespedes and the Tigers could still reunite this offseason when he is a free agent. For now, though, his Detroit tenure is over after about four months, during which he shared the highest Wins Above Replacement rating on the team, according to the Baseball-Reference.com formula.
Cespedes batted .293 (118-for-403) with 18 homers and 61 RBIs in 102 games. Notably, he heated up as the pressure grew, batting .304 with eight homers and 18 RBIs over his last 24 games. With the trade spotlight on Cespedes on Thursday night, he went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs in a 9-8 win over the Orioles.
"If he continues to play well, he could mean a lot to the Mets," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I think they'll be surprised at how good of a defender of a runner he is. I don't think that's as well-known as his bat."
Cespedes did not talk with reporters after the game. His teammate, fellow Cuban Jose Iglesias, talked with him as he learned about the deal.
"I would love to have him back," Iglesias said. "He's a great guy. He covered a lot of ground in left field. Great teammate. Overall, he's a great player."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.