Could The Tigers Have Gotten More For Fister?
There’s always a method to Dave Dombrowski’s madness, right? Let’s try to explain this one.
The Tigers last night completed a trade that sent Doug Fister to the Nationals for pitchers Robbie Ray and Ian Krol, and utilityman Steve Lombardozzi. Krol is a lefthanded reliever that will add another arm to an atrocious bullpen from last year, and Lombardozzi is a Don Kelly-esque player (whom the team also re-signed yesterday) who can play multiple positions while providing a switch-hitting bat off the bench.
The trade did benefit the Tigers–most notably, trading Fister now gives room for Drew Smyly to jump up to the starting rotation for next season. Lombardozzi will replace Ramon Santiago and also serve as a decent pinch-hitting option. Krol joins a bullpen that was just terrible last season in hopes of finding his own way. Ray will start 2014 in the minor leagues, where the Tigers hope he can continue to grow into a legitimate pitching prospect, of which Detroit has none. Ray was named the #5 prospect in the Nationals’ system by Baseball America, and took some significant steps forward in his velocity and overall development.
So, the Tigers clearly got some useful tools, but was that return enough for trading Doug Fister?
I’ll admit, when I first heard about the trade, I was okay with it–moving Smyly to the rotation was a priority of Dombrowski, and he accomplished that while getting a few guys to fill some smaller holes. I was then turned onto a FanGraphs analysis of the trade, and it changed my mind a bit.
What stuck out most to me about the FanGraphs analysis wasn’t the fact that Fister ranked among the league’s best pitchers in a couple of different Wins Above Replacement statistics, but that this situation was very similar to the Rays-Royals trade last winter that sent James Shields to Kansas City. In that deal, Tampa Bay sent a quality pitcher who still had a couple years of arbitration left to Kansas City for the eventual 2013 Rookie of the Year, Wil Myers.
Tampa Bay received a blue-chip prospect for their trade last year, so why couldn’t the Tigers reel in a prospect like Washington’s Anthony Rendon to fill their third base hole (especially considering how weak the free agent market for starting pitchers is this winter)?
We may never know that answer, or even what other teams were offering for Fister, but Dombrowski seems confident in his decision to to acquire Ray, Krol, and Lombardozzi from the Nationals. Seeing a prized prospect like Rendon coming over to Detroit would have been fantastic–the Tigers could have filled the third base hole with him while putting Nick Castellanos in left field–but the decision to address three issues with one transaction will give Dombrowski some more time to worry about the glaring weakness in the bullpen or the future of the outfield once Torii Hunter’s contract expires after 2014.
All in all, the return that the Tigers got for trading a solid guy like Doug Fister doesn’t look like much, and I can see why fans would be upset about the trade. I would have liked to have seen Rendon come over and play third base for a while, but who knows what the Nationals’ asking price for their top prospect was?
Dombrowski has pulled off questionable deals like this before, so I’m trusting that he and his scouting team saw something in Robbie Ray. If not, then Washington has walked away as the clear winner of this deal.