Tigers, SeaWolves extend player development contract

Tigers, SeaWolves extend player development contract

DETROIT -- Before Michael Fulmer became an American League Rookie of the Year Award candidate, he was a promising young arm at Double-A Erie last year, part of a long line of Tigers prospects who have spent time with the SeaWolves. With Monday's extension of their player development contract, the Tigers' road to Comerica Park will continue to go through Erie for the next two years. 

The Tigers and SeaWolves announced the extension, which runs through the 2018 season, at a news conference Monday morning in Erie, Pa.  

"We appreciate the relationship we have with the SeaWolves and are delighted to extend this agreement," Tigers VP of player development Dave Littlefield said in a statement. "While we are in the business of developing impact-type players, winning is an important part of the process, and the goal is to see the Erie club win the Eastern League championship."

As part of the announcement, the SeaWolves announced that their home, Jerry Uht Park, will become UPMC Park under a new naming rights agreement with the Pennsylvania-based health-care provider. 

The Tigers moved their Double-A team from Jacksonville, Fla., to Erie in 2001, creating a closer geographic and developmental link with Detroit and Triple-A Toledo. The SeaWolves won a division title that year with a team that included future Tigers Omar Infante, Fernando Rodney, Eric Munson, Nate Cornejo, Andy Van Hekken and others.

Since then, Tigers All-Stars Justin Verlander, Curtis Granderson and Alex Avila all came up through Erie, as did Nick Castellanos, James McCann, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, Drew Smyly, Bruce Rondon, Buck Farmer, Kyle Ryan, Steven Moya, JaCoby Jones, Devon Travis, Avisail Garcia, Eugenio Suarez, Cody Ross and Matt Joyce.  

The SeaWolves last won the division in 2007 with a team that included Maybin and Miller. They last made the Eastern League playoffs in '13.

"The Tigers are perennial postseason contenders," SeaWolves owner and CEO Fernando Aguirre said in a statement, "and many of the players responsible for that continued success played for the Erie SeaWolves." 

The Tigers still have to extend their player development contract with Toledo, their Triple-A affiliate since 1987. Detroit's contract with Class A West Michigan runs through 2020.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.