RHP Michael Fulmer is centerpiece of Cespedes deal
Baltimore – You aren’t supposed to be able to get premium prospects for pending free-agent players.
Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski defied that baseball axiom the last two days. On Thursday, he got three top left-handed pitching prospects from Toronto (including Daniel Norris) in a deal for David Price.
On Friday, just 15 minutes before the trade deadline, he acquired right-handed pitching prospect Michael Fulmer, as well as right-hander Luis Cessa, from the Mets for left fielder Yoenis Cespedes.
“In all the deals, we feel we got legitimate guys, real good prospects for us,” Dombrowski said. “We have helped our pitching depth at the upper levels a great deal. ... We changed the outlook of our organization at the upper level, which we needed to do. We have traded so many guys in the past.
“Ideally, you don't want to be in this position. But based on where we were, we think this gives us an influx of guys who can help us going into next year. It puts us in a good spot going into next year."
Fulmer is 22 and Cessa is 23. Both are starting pitchers. Fulmer will report to Double-A Erie and Cessa to Triple-A Toledo. Make no mistake, Fulmer was the guy that made this deal work for the Tigers.
“A guy like Cespedes is a premium player and he's played really well,” Dombrowski said. “There was a lot of competition, a lot of people looking for bats. We did not make this trade until 3:45 p.m.
“We had asked for Fulmer the last couple of days and the Mets said no. Finally they came back and we made the deal.”
Fulmer, who has a mid-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider, was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA at Double-A Binghamton. He struck out 83 in 86 innings and opponents were hitting .227 against him.
Cessa, whose fastball hits in the low-90s but has an above average changeup, started the season in Double-A but recently was called up to Triple-A Las Vegas. In 18 starts between the two leagues, he was 7-7 with a 3.98 ERA.
With those two, plus Norris (who starts for the Tigers Sunday) and Matt Boyd, the Tigers have four young arms that will compete for rotation spots next season.
“Our starting pitching will need to be addressed in the wintertime,” Dombrowski said, meaning through free agency or trades. “Because you're not going to stick three of these guys -- even though they might be capable of doing that -- you're not going to be putting three young guys into your rotation and saying that you're going to try to win a world championship.
“But I assure you that our goal going into next year will be to try to win a world championship.”
All six of the players the Tigers received in the deals for Price, Cespedes and Joakim Soria – five pitchers and shortstop JaCoby Jones – are now rated among the top 15 prospects in the Tigers system by MLBpipeline.com.
“Part of it is we traded good players,” Dombrowski said. “When you trade good players it’s amazing what you can do.”
Cespedes thanked the fans and organization on Twitter but he did not speak to the media. He has said all season that he felt very comfortable in Detroit and has left the door open to possibly re-signing with the Tigers this winter.
“It’s tough when you lose a player like that,” said shortstop and Cuban countryman Jose Iglesias. “But it’s a business at the end of the day. It’s unfortunate when you see a good player go. We have to keep moving forward.”
Iglesias spoke to Cespedes right after the deal was made.
“He’s OK with it,” Iglesias said. “There’s nothing he can do about it. He doesn’t control that stuff.”
Cespedes hit .293 with a .506 slugging percentage and .829 OPS. His Wins Above Replacement was a career-best 4.0. In the last week before the deadline he hit .375 with a 1.250 OPS and four home runs.
“Yoenis did a tremendous job for us,” Dombrowski said. “It's just a situation of him being a free agent at the end of the year. And based upon the things that we're doing, we thought it was a prudent move for us."
Dombrowski described the bidding war for Cespedes as a frenzy, with as many as six teams making offers.
“We had a lot of conversation the last couple of days but as time went on, numerous clubs picked up the phone and threw something at us,” he said. “But this was the one that appealed to us the most because we liked Fulmer the most of the clubs we were talking to."
Tyler Collins was recalled from Toledo to replace Cespedes on the roster. Collins and Rajai Davis will split time in left field.