Detroit filled its most important need heading into the non-waiver Trade Deadline by acquiring Fister from Seattle on Saturday for a package of prospects. The Tigers also got right-handed Mariners reliever David Pauley in the deal, fortifying a bullpen that had been short on right-handed middle relief for most of the year.
In return, Detroit sent left-hander Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells, third-base prospect Francisco Martinez and a player to be named.
The deal ended what might well go down among the most exhaustive trade searches Dave Dombrowski and his assistants have engaged in over his 10 years as Tigers president/general manager.
"Our list started at 24 guys that we were looking at," Dombrowski said. "We're very happy to consummate this deal, as we think Fister will help us now. We like him a great deal."
The Tigers' enthusiasm for Fister centers on more than his basic stats. Fister owns a 3-12 record, but that's a better reflection of the Mariners' struggles than the 27-year-old's pitching. His 3.33 ERA ranks 20th among AL starters, ahead of every current Detroit starter not named Justin Verlander. His 1.17 WHIP ratio ranks 15th. His run support, on the other hand, ranks dead last.
For someone in just his second full Major League season, with another year until he's eligible for arbitration and four years until free agency, the Tigers see him as an advanced pitcher at a young age, and a guy that -- ironically, given his record for the Mariners -- gives them a chance to win.
Fister will try to start doing that on Wednesday, when he makes his first start as a Tiger against familiar American League West foe Texas.
"[Fister] gives us that solid guy to go out there, a 6- or 7-inning-type guy that gives us a chance to win every time he takes the ball," Dombrowski said.
On a staff that includes AL Cy Young candidate Verlander, high-strikeout hurler Max Scherzer and blossoming sinkerballer Rick Porcello, that chance to win was exactly what the Tigers needed. Saturday's loss to the Angels dropped Detroit to 4-17 when its fifth starter is on the mound, including Phil Coke's ill-fated starting experiment and stints from Furbush and Duane Below. They haven't won from that slot since mid-June.
By contrast, the Tigers' other four starters have combined for a 52-34 team record when they're on the mound.
Tigers scouts looked at starters ranging from Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez to Dodgers Japanese transplant Hiroki Kuroda, Washington's Jason Marquis, Atlanta's Derek Lowe, and many in between.
All the while, their talks on Fister were pretty consistent, keeping the possibility open.
"I think the acquisition cost was very high this year -- a lot of people looking for starting pitching and very few of them available, not many clubs that are looking to move them at this point," Dombrowski said. "Really, Seattle wasn't looking to move this guy. It was a situation where I thought the deal was dead a couple days ago, had no chance.
"I've probably spoken to [Mariners general manager] Jack Zduriencik 25 times over the last week on this one. We liked [Fister], and I knew they were looking for multiple players and young service-time guys. We had some guys that fit that description that they liked. It ended up picking up again a couple days ago and headed in this direction."
The deal ended up including the right-handed relief help the Tigers had been seeking as a secondary deal with other clubs. The 28-year-old Pauley owns a 5-4 record and 2.15 record, allowing 38 hits over 54 1/3 innings. He has seven holds and one blown save.
"The starter was our main objective, but we also wanted to help our bullpen, if we could," Dombrowski said. "Pauley can fit a bunch of different roles. He can pitch two or three innings, which we talked about at times this year -- that lack of a right-handed guy who can do that. He can do it very comfortably, but he can also pitch an inning, too. It just so happened to tie together well with this club, but we had other conversations going on individually with relievers."
The Tigers were able to add Fister and Pauley without giving up top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, who took the loss in a strong outing for Detroit on Saturday afternoon. Still, the prospect haul was heavy.
Furbush rose from a Class A pitcher at the start of last season to a valuable Tigers swing starter this year, after being called up in mid-May. The lanky 25-year-old left-hander owns a 1-3 record and 3.62 ERA in 17 games, two of them starts.
Wells made Detroit's Opening Day roster as an extra outfielder and stayed there until he was sent down a week ago to make room for Carlos Guillen. The athletic 26-year-old played all three outfield spots while providing some right-handed punch, batting .257 with 10 doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs in 125 plate appearances.
Martinez was one of two Tigers prospects to play in the All-Star Futures Game earlier this month, and one of a few third-base prospects on the club. He rose to Double-A Erie at age 20 and batted .282 in 91 games for the SeaWolves, with 14 doubles, four triples, seven homers and 46 RBIs.
The player to be named will be chosen from a list on or before August 20. By rule, players cannot be traded until a year after signing their first pro contract, which would indicate that prospects drafted last year and signed around the mid-August deadline are on the list. Among the deadline signings for the Tigers last year were left-hander Drew Smyly, who started for Double-A Erie Saturday, and reliever Chance Ruffin, who spent four games in Detroit's bullpen earlier this week.