While we all love that a high school student, Chris Cotillo, has beaten Heyman and Rosenthal to most of the big news this winter, he didn’t bring us good news on this night. Cotillo reported Monday evening that the Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Nationals in exchange for UTIL Steve Lombardozzi, LHP Ian Krol, and LHP Robbie Ray.
There was a good chance we’d see a Tigers starter get traded this offseason due to Dombrowski’s desire to get Smyly into the rotation and Scherzer, Porcello, and Fister were all rumored to be candidates to head elsewhere. Fister seemed the least likely to move because he is cheaper and under control for longer than Scherzer while being better than Porcello (despite being older). It isn’t crazy to move at starter when you have six good ones, but trading a 4 win pitcher in his prime to the Nationals for a package that doesn’t do much for the 2014 Tigers seems pretty strange.
Fister has been the 9th best pitcher in the league since 2011 and figures to remain more valuable than his salary for the next two seasons. He has tremendous command and an excellent ground ball rate to go along with his improving strikeout rate entering his age 30 season and Nats fans are going to love watching him work. Fister might not be an “ace,” but he’s just outside that group of pitchers. He’s an absolute star.
The package the Tigers got back is the kind of package you get back in a salary dump. Lombardozzi is useful bench player, Krol is bullpen lefty, and Ray has a good fastball but needs a lot of work on his secondary stuff. Combined, there is simply no way they’re equal to Fister in 2014 without a serious injury. This unquestionably makes the 2014 Tigers worse.
In looking at this deal in conjunction with the Fielder move, it’s starting to look like the Tigers are thinking about reloading for the future. Which is pretty strange given how close they’ve come during each of the last three seasons. The Fielder deal worked in order to clear money to make other moves, but this deal is a salary dump that might pay off in three years. Maybe. And the worst part about it is that someone would have paid way more for Fister. Fister is great. Fister is almost an ace with two years left. He’s practically David Price for less money. The Tigers got a better Don Kelly and some bullpen depth so that they could save something like $6 million.
This isn’t a good deal unless Ray turns into a star, and even if he does that isn’t going to be while Verlander, Scherzer, and Cabrera are at their peaks. It’s possible this is some weird prelude to signing Robinson Cano, but other than that this looks absolutely terrible. The Tigers picked up very little for a star player on an affordable deal. And they could have gotten more.
You won’t often hear this, but Dave Dombrowski just got hosed in a trade. The 2014 World Series is looking a little bit farther away tonight. Worst of all, Doug Fister is moving to Washington, which means I won’t be able to watch a single one of his starts due to MLB’s Blackout Policy.