If there is any doubt that Washington Nationals President of Baseball Operations and GM Mike Rizzo is at the top of his game, the Doug Fister deal should silence all critics. The deal has been a week in the making, and the Detroit Tigers wanted a number of different players in the deal before Rizzo settled on the three players he was willing to trade for Fister.
The Nationals solved their fourth starter problem without giving away the farm and without paying the nearly $15 to $20 million that a free agent would have cost them. Washington now has a starting four of Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg and Fister, and that my friends is as good as anyone in baseball.
The Nationals got one of baseball’s most consistent pitchers in MLB in Fister, and they protected all of their key minor league stars. He posted a 3.67 ERA last year for Detroit in a sturdy 208.2 innings. Over the last three years, the 6-foot-8 sinker ball throwing Fister has racked up 13.3 WAR, falling between David Price and Cole Hamels at ninth in baseball. He is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $6.9 million this year through arbitration and is not eligible for free agency until 2016.
The Tigers wanted two pitchers, and their first list included either reliever Tyler Clippard or Drew Storen and young starter Tyler Jordan. To Rizzo those were not guys he was willing to part with from day one, and he never changed his mind. He was willing to part with pitching prospect Robbie Ray, utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, and southpaw reliever Ian Krol.
Dave Dombrowski, the president, CEO and general manager of the Tigers, wanted to get three good players with cheap contracts while offloading Fister’s contract. He did not want to trade Fister, but he also has to work around a budget; so with Prince Fielder gone to Texas and now Fister headed to Washington he has some financial freedom to get things done.
Meanwhile, Rizzo knows that the Nationals have plenty of strong, young pitching to help in big club out in the future. Though Ray was certainly a well-regarded prospect, he was not the club’s highest-rated minor league arm and was not expected to have a chance at a rotation spot this year. No doubt that both Lombardozzi and Krol were both useful players, but neither was irreplaceable.