Last December, the Detroit Tigers sent starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals less than two weeks after shipping Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. It was seemingly part of a larger plan to free up money so the Tigers could extend Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer as well as move Drew Smyly back into the starting rotation. Six months later, the Tigers have been able to strike a deal with Cabrera, but Scherzer turned down a monster offer from the Tigers and Smyly has struggled in a starting role thus far this season.
Fister, on the other hand, has been flourishing in the nation’s capital even though he started the season on the DL and did not make his first start until May 9. He was roughed up in his debut, but since then he has really settled down and is now 4-1 with a 3.19 ERA and an 0.98 WHIP on the season. Given the struggles of Justin Verlander, Smyly and even Scherzer lately, Fister would definitely look nice in the Tigers’ rotation at the moment.
Obviously, the Tigers did pick up a few very nice pieces in the Fister deal. Left-handed specialist Ian Krol has proven to be a very effective member of the Tigers’ bullpen, and Robbie Ray showed great promise during his stint with the Tigers earlier this season. So there are certainly positive aspects of the trade, but it still would have been interesting to see what the rotation would have looked like with Fister in it in 2014.
Perhaps if the Tigers would have known that Scherzer was going to turn them down they would have traded him instead of Fister. There is an argument to be made that the Tigers are trying to win a championship and Scherzer is essential to that mission, but Fister could have helped the Tigers get there as well. After all, even though Scherzer had a magical Cy Young season in 2013, Fister still has a lower career ERA and a slightly better career WHIP than Scherzer.
Furthermore, while Scherzer will become a free agent after this season, Fister will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2015 season. Fister is also the guy who went 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA after coming to the Tigers in July of 2011, reminding older fans of Doyle Alexander back in 1987.
There are very few who believe that Scherzer will still be pitching in Detroit in 2015, and it is certainly intriguing to imagine the package of talent the Tigers may have been able to receive in exchange for him this winter. It is still far too early to announce the winner of the Fister trade and there is a lot that could still happen, but there is a possibility that the Tigers may have been better off trading Scherzer instead of Fister. Only time will tell.