Walkoff Woodward

Concerning Detroit Baseball
December 2, 2013

Waiting Patiently For The Moves That Actually Improve The Tigers

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.

  • verlander

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen some people saying “Well maybe the Tigers just ~*~*~*~know~*~*~*~ something about Fister the rest of us don’t~~” to justify the deal, which seems like a bit of a stretch. Meh. I guess I really just don’t like deals where the best case scenario absolutely needs to happen in order for the trade to work.

  • Stu

    Amen. This trade is baffling, at best (pull-my-hair-out-infuriating, at worst). Doug seemed to fit in well in the clubhouse, works hard, can be counted on to throw 200+ innings, has a nasty sinker and nearly a 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio last season, is good for a sub 4.00 ERA every year (for the foreseeable future), and is solid in the postseason. What more could you want from a #3/#4 starter?? People are saying “well, Smyly will slide into that role.” Can anyone out there guarantee that Smyly will meet or exceed the above attributes? No. Tossing Fister aside (for peanuts) to make room for Smyly is a gamble, a gamble that was unnecessary. Even if Robbie Ray turns out to be a lights out starter, when will he see the mound at Comerica? 2017? The Tigs are in “win now” mode, and as Grey said, there is no way they are better (or in a better position for further moves, for that matter) after the trade than they were before it. Just a bad move and there’s no sugarcoating it.

  • Dan List

    The only rational is that you didn’t think you would keep him in free agency. So you traded him now to get some value for it, knowing the rotation is one place you have depth. So he traded his depth position to get depth at other positions. Have to think of it like the other GM would look at it… “Gee Dave, why should I trade the farm when I can sign him as a FA next year? I call your bluff.” Dave is hoping one of the pitchers pans out, and we have a younger/cheaper utility infielder to replace the 34 yr old Santiago. It looks bad but in reality I think Ricky P will be cheaper and he is what he is… A #5 (10-8 / 4.50). At the end of the day this is still the best rotation in the AL, pending the Max signing.

    • Ryan

      I’m glad you said AL, because I now like the Nationals starting four more than the Tigers.

    • SkillyDog

      “…..pending the Max signing.” That is what has me a little nervous right now. I want to see that locked down, but until then, I consider the Tigers are without Fister AND Scherzer.

  • NyarLOLhotep

    I don’t get it. I could see trading Fister if there were a few more prospects involved. I’d rather see a little life pumped into the farm system than an upgrade to the utility spot and a possible replacement for Phil Coke. The cupboard is bare..

  • goots

    Tigers strength was their starting staff,opposing teams don’t like facing our rotation. Until now,no offense to Drew Smyly,but i believe he’s best suited for long relief where he dominated the opposition. Fister has such a large upside for what we got in return is minimal. In my mind I feel Fister is ready for a huge break out season much like Scherzer last year,but now he’s gonna do it for Washington. Have you checked out Washington’s rotation,they look nasty. Just confused and unhappy with the trade,Fister will be missed.

  • johnny patrick

    Why is there a silhouette of Fielder in the header? It’s no wonder Prince is missed by this group. Do you guys even like fundamental baseball? chemistry? Or are you into the modern jive-a_s crap that people like Fielder bring. Stupid hair and stupid beards and stupid handshakes and then when it comes to prime time (playoffs) they cannot really perform. Fielder acted like a rookie. He’s a clown. Don’t know what happened about Fister but like the man said ‘maybe we don’t know something’. While you guys are watching Cano with your little calculators, pricing hits and fielding chances, I’ll be watching the Tigers and there new working class additions. I’ll bet that secretly Miguel Cabrera and many other Tigers won’t miss Fielder and his baggage.

    • Leyland’s yellow teeth

      This is an article about Fister. Stay on topic, and please look up the difference between “there” and “their” before you post again.

  • Spence

    Everyone’s so worried about losing Fister to free agency. Christ – that’s three seasons away. Say he gets $8M twice in arbitration, after which he walks. So then you’ve essentially signed him as a 2/16 FA, and additionally are likely to get compensation when he rejects the Tigers’ QO. This team is here to win NOW; tomorrow it might rain. You got a LOOGY, a marginal pitching prospect who cannot help in 2014, and a Ramon Santiago replacement. Marvelous.

  • Tony Pacino

    The Tigers were so STUPID to get rid of Fister!
    I thought it was a great pick-up when Detroit took him off the hands of Seattle.
    Fister is easily a 20 game winner if healthy! Tigers should of never messed with last years team and should of kept it status quo. WHY WHY WHY!

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