The 2016 trade deadline is already generating plenty of buzz around major league baseball with multi-player deals, trade vetoes and rampant speculation headlining the weekend activity.
The Detroit Tigers remain interested in upgrading the back end of the rotation but the prices are considered prohibitive, at least at the moment. However, even if the organization does makes a roster upgrade, this year's deadline figures to be far less eventful than in 2015. Before parting ways with Detroit in the weeks that followed, then-general manager Dave Dombrowski unloaded star pitcher David Price, center fielder Yoenis Cespedes and closer Joakim Soria -- a trio of deals that yielded a bevy of talented assets in return.
Of all the prospects recouped, none has fared better than former first-round pick Michael Fulmer. The 23-year-old pitcher, acquired in the deal that sent Cespedes to the New York Mets, had experienced stunning success in the first half of his rookie season, posting a 9-2 record with a 2.50 ERA while solidifying the middle of the Tigers rotation. One year ago today, Fulmer became a Detroit Tiger. Earlier this week in Boston, he met the man who traded for him -- Dombrowski -- in person for the first time. Here’s a look back on how that day unfolded and how the parties involved in the deal feel in its aftermath:
Dombrowski (on meeting Fulmer in Boston): “It was interesting, because when I was on the field watching batting practice there walking through and the Tigers were hitting and someone brought Michael Fulmer up and introduced him to me. And of course I knew him from the past, because he was a high draft choice out of Oklahoma and I talked to him on the phone at that particular time. I said I had the chance to watch him a couple times and how impressive he's been. He was talking about the great class from the state of Oklahoma that year, which it was -- [ RHP’s Dylan Bundy, Archie Bradley]. In his situation, we said we thought you should have been a first-rounder back then, so I think ... it's great to watch a young player like that succeed."
Fulmer (on the meeting): “[Tigers defensive coordinator] Matty Martin introduced me to him. I just said thank you. I didn’t know what to say, really. I just talked to him for a couple of minutes. I said thank you for the opportunity.”
Dombrowski (on the work that led to the trade that brought Fulmer to Detroit): "There are a lot of people that contributed to that situation. So, there are a lot of people that did a good job from the scouting perspective; [it was a] great support situation.”
Pedro Lopez, Binghamton Mets (AA) manager (on getting the call from Mets now-bench coach Dick Scott, informing him Fulmer had been traded): “I remember we were in Richmond. Everyone was in the clubhouse. Everyone was talking about [Tigers center fielder] Cespedes coming over to the Mets and they still hadn’t said who that guy was going to be [coming back in the deal] and it’s funny I get a call from the front office saying that Fulmer’s gonna be the guy, so we brought him in.”
Lopez (on summoning Fulmer to his office): “When the guys saw me going out there they knew it was somebody from our team, and when I went and got Fulmer, everybody started clapping and getting excited about him getting traded. But at the same time, it was sad because we felt it was a big part of our ball club, especially when we were at that particular moment. But I thought it was a neat experience. Not only for him and for me, but for everyone else on the club. ... Once again we knew something like that could happen. Maybe it was a guy we did not want to see leave, but you know what? Whatever’s best for him. And he seems to be on the right track.”
Fulmer (on whether he expected to be traded): “Not really. I was very surprised. I knew I was having a good year, but I also had two injury-plagued seasons before that, so I just wanted to stay healthy that year and I didn’t really look at numbers that year. I was just trying to go out there and give it 100 percent every outing and hopefully stay healthy for once.”
Lopez (on what Fulmer said to him after being informed): “We were both kind of shocked when he looked at me. He said ‘Really?’ I said, ‘Yeah, and I think this is good.’ And I think he was happy. He seemed a little sad at the moment. But, he also understood he got bigger chances in Detroit than he had over here. Not to say [we didn’t feel] he was a guy that could be pitching in the big leagues for us, but you know what? He’s having a terrific season with Detroit and we wish him the best.”
Brad Ausmus, Tigers manager (on his immediate thoughts after the trade): “I understand why it’s done -- don’t get me wrong -- but give me a manager that wants to build for next year and I’ll give you a liar. All of us want to win right now. I knew I was losing a proven major-league player, an All-Star caliber player for a guy that might help down the road.”
Ausmus (on what he knew about Fulmer at the time of the trade): “The only thing I really heard about him is that the Mets kind of considered him the next guy up from the minor leagues -- that’s all I can tell you. That’s all I heard. I hadn’t seen him, nothing. Obviously once he gets to the organization, you hear things, you get reports, but until you lay eyes on him, you’re just going on other people’s opinions.”
Ausmus (on when he first realized Fulmer could make an impact at big-league level): "Well, in spring training, you see the arm and that he could potentially help us, but I still thought he needed some seasoning. He just ended up coming a lot quicker than expected. He got seasoned a lot quicker than I expected."
Fulmer (on looking back at the trade that brought him to Detroit): “I was happy at the deadline, just because, and I said it last year, the Mets had those five arms that they have. I don't want to say I was stuck behind them because I played with a lot of them and I think I could compete with them. On that note, they are all future All-Stars, if not already, so I'm glad that those guys are having success but, then again, it was good for me to get out of there and explore other options with another team. I was extremely happy to get out of that system, but, then again, that’s who gave me the opportunity to play pro ball. Otherwise, I was thankful for all the time they gave me and the opportunity they gave me, but I was very happy to come over to come to the Tigers.”