Does David Dombrowski know something that the rest of us don’t? That’s the only explanation I can possibly come up with for the Doug Fister trade.
From a strictly baseball perspective, throwing the financial side of things out the window, I can understand if you think trading Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler was a net win for the Tigers. I personally felt it made them a worse baseball team, but it gave them some money to play with to address areas that needed it.
This? I cannot come up with a single way this benefits the Detroit Tigers. They are not as good today as they were yesterday. I do not see how trading Doug Fister for a utility infielder, a LOOGY, and a starting pitching prospect makes the Detroit Tigers a better baseball team in 2014, or 2015, or any year beyond that.
It’s not a salary dump, and even if it were, it’d be an ineffective one. MLB Trade Rumors projects that Fister will be cheaper than Rick Porcello next year, so if they wanted to dump salary, they’d have been better off trading Porcello. Virtually all the savings between Fielder and Fister will go toward arbitration raises. Once they sign a closer, they’ll be pretty close to their Opening Day payroll from last year. If they’re shedding salary, they’re not doing a very good job of it.
But they’re not cutting payroll. Dombrowski said as much on the ensuing conference call, and for once I believe him. Better managing payroll, perhaps, but I believe him when he says that this trade was made for baseball reasons. What reasons he thinks they are, though, I have no idea.
I completely understand trading Doug Fister. The Tigers had six starters, if you believe Drew Smyly will transition back to the role without too much incident. It was their biggest asset. They could deal from a position of strength. The Scherzer rumors were always overblown and, to me, Fister and Porcello always seemed likelier trade candidates. Both were under team control for a few more years. Both were cheap compared to some of their peers. Fister’s value in particular seemed to be quite high.
So how on earth did the Tigers bungle this? They gave away a guy who is probably good for 200 innings and an ERA around 3.50 and didn’t get a single everyday contributor. They got a LOOGY and a utility guy and a prospect starting pitcher they seem to love more than anyone else does. How in the world does a pitcher of Fister’s caliber not fetch the Tigers better than that? I would have been let down if that package had come in return for Porcello, much less this.
Fister’s numbers are comparable to some of the bigger name pitchers in baseball. He’s not that worse than James Shields, and Shields fetched Wil Myers via trade. The Brewers gave up Brett Lawrie to get Shaun Marcum a few years back, and Fister is a far safer bet than Marcum was. The Rangers parted with a more attractive package for two months of Matt Garza than the Nationals did for two years of Doug Fister. Heck, the package the Tigers gave Seattle for Fister was more highly thought of than the group they got in return for him. Fister is better than Ricky Nolasco, the consensus best free agent pitcher this winter who just got $50 million from the Minnesota Twins. Fister might end up being the second best starter to move this winter, assuming David Price is traded. Are you really telling me that, in this market, for this pitcher, the Tigers couldn’t find a better package than Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol, and Robbie Ray? I find that awful hard to believe. It is a baffling trade for the Tigers from any angle you look at it, and no free agent signing or trade they make from here will change the fact that the Tigers had a valuable asset in Fister, and they got shafted. They had an excellent trade chip and they were dealing from a position of strength. There was no great incentive to rush through or force a Fister trade. The Tigers could sign Shin-Soo Choo tomorrow and this would still be an abysmal return for a valuable piece.
I haven’t really seen anyone who likes this trade – not even those in the know who are more familiar with Krol and Ray than I am. People liked the Granderson trade more than this, and comparing this one to that is stupid. Scherzer was a known commodity when the Tigers got him and Jackson was a highly thought of prospect. Here? Utility infielder, bullpen lefty, pitching prospect who won’t show up in anyone’s top 100 next spring. It boggles the mind that this is the return on a quality pitcher who is under contract for two more seasons.
We are, of course, promised more moves, and I have no doubt we’ll get them. A closer is definitely in our future, and I expect they’ll find a left fielder as well. Knowing Dombrowski, another more shocking move cannot be ruled out. I am sure the Tigers’ decision makers have a master plan, and I am sure we have not seen it come to fruition yet. That said, the Tigers are worse off now than they were at the end of the season. I look forward to a move that actually makes them better. And unless they pick up a pretty solid left fielder and quality bullpen depth, I’m not sure they actually will be better.