The best column on the Fister to the Nats trade I’ve read is from Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and my suggestion to you is that if you want an opinion of the trade, read that. It echoes what the majority of people think about the trade and there is no reason for me to write out the same thing when it has already been done, and by this time I am sure you know the details of the trade and have your own opinion on it. The other interesting reaction to the trade was from the depths of the Nats fan base that happen to live on Facebook. I didn’t know this until last night but then a new Twitter account, @MASNCommenter, popped up. My curiosity wouldn’t let me rest until I could discover the origin of these comments and it turned out to be the MASN Nationals Facebook page.
It is almost alarming to juxtapose Dave Cameron’s thoughts with those of the MASN comments. Most of the complaints on the Nats end are that the Nationals traded a left handed reliever and Steve Lombardozzi. To see either of these as a negative is a complete lack of fundamental understanding of baseball. Even if Lombardozzi was a good utility player, which he isn’t, and Ian Krol an excellent left handed reliever, which he isn’t yet, this would be a steal for the Nationals. Consider that last season Doug Fister had a 4.6 fWAR and in 2011 Gio Gonzalez had a 3.3 fWAR. In essence the Nationals got a pitcher coming off of a better season than Gio Gonzalez when they traded for him for far less of a price. The real get for the Tigers is Robbie Ray and I am not unconvinced that Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers scouts value Ray more than prospect evaluators do. The Tigers may view Ray as having top of the rotation potential whereas most everyone else views him as more of a back of the rotation type. That may be the case or the Tigers are continuing an effort they started when they traded Prince Fielder to clear up payroll to keep Scherzer, Cabrera, and to possibly add an outfield bat like Choo.
Trades shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum and if I were a Tigers fan I wouldn’t like this deal but I would be waiting for what is next. As far as what the Nationals received they got a very solid starting pitcher with a career 3.54 ERA and 3.44 FIP. Fister isn’t a strikeout pitcher with a career K/9 of 6.28 but he doesn’t walk many batters with a career 1.81 BB/9 and he doesn’t give up a lot of homers and has a career 0.70 ERA. Fister has pitched in both Seattle and Detroit and both of those home parks are known as pitchers parks but Fister’s splits of a 3.21 ERA at home and 3.91 ERA on the road are not extreme and nothing to worry about. Fister has also only pitched in the AL and has done very well in interleague play with a career 2.09 ERA in 73 1/3 innings against the NL. That is a limited sampling but the benefit of pitching in the NL should outweigh the negative of no longer pitching in Comerica.
The trade for Fister bolsters an already deep Nationals rotation and because they were able to move the Tigers off Taylor Jordan and on to Ian Krol they also bolstered their pitching depth. As it stands right now Detwiler would be the Nats fifth starter with Ohlendorf and/or Roark going to the bullpen as long relief/spot starter and Taylor Jordan and Nate Karns starting the season in AAA as emergency pitching depth. Fister is an obvious upgrade over what the Nationals had in Dan Haren in 2013 and Edwin Jackson in 2012. If he is himself you’re looking at around 200 innings and a 3.50 ERA. A typical fourth starter should give around 180 innings with a 4.00 ERA so in both regards the Nationals have upgraded what it was thought they were looking for. They also didn’t give up a lot. It was thought that the Nationals would be more interested in someone like the Cubs Jeff Samardzija but the thought was that the Cubs were seeking impact prospects. For his career Samardzija has a 4.19 ERA and 3.94 FIP. For a better pitcher the Nats gave up less talent than it was assumed they’d have to give up for Samardzija and not to mention the amount of talent they would have had to give up for David Price.
This was a typical against the grain type of trade that good GMs make and one thing I’ve criticized Rizzo for in the past. I always felt Rizzo was a GM who liked to go through the progressions of the off-season. To follow the rhythm of the moves. That he would try for Price until Price was gone and then move onto Samardzija and then onto Garza. Following all the other GMs that would do the same thing and thus raising the price for every pitcher along the way. Instead of following the progression Rizzo went out and got a pitcher that no one was even reporting was available and did so for a very low price. Another big part of this is that Fister is still under his original contract and is arb eligible for this season and next at a lower cost than free agents or David Price. Because of the lower cost for Fister if the posting system does get ironed out and the Nationals do want to bid on Masahiro Tanaka they have the ability to do so.
Over the last two seasons Mike Rizzo rode the rhythm of the off-season and signed whoever was left on the market and would accept a one year deal when all the big names were gone. This off-season he went against the grain and surprised everyone with a move for an underrated pitcher. This is a great deal for the Nationals, gives them one of the best rotations in the NL, and does nothing to get in the way of any other off-season plans.
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