Biggest Winners and Losers of the Doug Fister, Jim Johnson Trades
Monday saw a pair of big trades pulled off in MLB, as the Orioles sent closer Jim Johnson to the A's for second baseman Jemile Weeks and the Tigers shipped right-hander Doug Fister to the Nationals for a package of three players.
The A's found a replacement for Grant Balfour while the Orioles were able to shed his contract without having to non-tender him. In the other deal, the Nationals bolstered their already deep rotation while the Tigers freed up more money while adding talent in the process.
As with any trade, there are inevitably winners and losers on both sides, so here is a look at who emerged as the early winners and losers of both the Jim Johnson and Doug Fister trades.
Winner: Jim Johnson
That's right, this deal was a win-win for both players involved, as Johnson was a potential non-tender candidate had the Orioles not been able to find a taker for him before yesterday's tender deadline.
Peter Gammons reported yesterday that Johnson could be a victim of the non-tender process, which likely would have meant a significantly lower salary for Johnson than the $10.8 million he is projected to receive in arbitration.
Johnson has led the AL in saves each of the past two seasons, with 51 in 2012 and 50 this past year. However, his ERA climbed from 2.49 to 2.94 last year and aside from his AL-best saves total he also blew an MLB-high nine saves.
The move will not only allow Johnson to reap the rewards of his final year of arbitration, but also keep him pitching for a contender, as the move seems to have been a best-case scenario for him all the way around.
Winner: Jemile Weeks
The biggest reason for the Orioles' decision to move Jim Johnson was his projected $10.8 million salary in arbitration, but they also managed to get an intriguing bounce-back candidate from Oakland in the deal in second baseman Jemile Weeks.
The No. 12 pick in the 2008 draft, Weeks looked like a star in the making when he debuted in 2011, hitting .303/.340/.421 over 406 at-bats and swiping 22 bases.
Weeks was pegged as the team's only untouchable player that following offseason, a winter that saw the A's deal Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Andrew Bailey.
However, he hit just .221/.305/.304 in 2012, and spent most of last season in the minors where he hit .271/.376/.369 in 520 at-bats at Triple-A.
Still just 26, he's a prime candidate to benefit from a change of scenery, and with a vacancy at second base in Baltimore, he will have a chance to play his way into an everyday role.
Loser: Brian Roberts
Once one of the best second basemen in the game and a fan favorite in Baltimore, Brian Roberts wrapped up a four-year, $40 million deal this past season and is now a free agent.
Over the course of that contract, he played a total of just 192 games, hitting .246/.310/.359 and never playing in more than 77 games in any one season.
That said, the Orioles were still interested in bringing the 36-year-old back in free agency, according to Rich Dubroff of Comcast Baltimore back at the beginning of the offseason.
They may yet re-sign the veteran, allowing him to finish his career in Baltimore where it started, but the addition of Weeks certainly hurts his chances of being an everyday second baseman in Baltimore again and the chances seen remote that anyone else is willing to rely on him as anything more than a backup.
Loser: Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle
With the departure of All-Star closer Grant Balfour in free agency, many expected the A's to stand pat in the bullpen and open things up to a competition between last year's primary setup men Ryan Cook and Sean Doolittle for the right to close games.
Both pitchers threw the ball incredibly well in setting up Balfour, and have the stuff to slam the door in the ninth inning.
Cook, who came over from the Diamondbacks in the Trevor Cahill trade, spent some time in the closer's role as a rookie in 2012 and actually earned a trip to the All-Star Game.
Doolittle was a first-round pick back in 2007 as a first baseman, hitting .286/.358/.495 with 22 home runs and 91 RBI between High-A and Double-A in 2008. However, knee injuries sidelined him for all of 2010 and he made the switch to pitching upon his return.
Both guys will still play a key role in the Oakland bullpen this coming season, but they are no longer in a position to move into the closer's role.
Winner: Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A's
Just as both players changing teams came out as winners, both teams fall into the winner category of this deal as well.
For the Orioles, the deal gives them some payroll flexibility to potentially add to their starting rotation and address the hole in left field. Catcher Matt Wieters was also a candidate to be moved in an effort to free up some salary room, and unloading Johnson likely means the team will be able to hold onto its All-Star catcher.
Baltimore also gets a zero-risk, high-upside option at second base in Weeks, and if he can emerge as the starter at the position this will wind up as a huge win for the Orioles. That said, even if he winds up back in the minors or even released, this deal still stands as a win for the Orioles.
As for the A's, they get a solid replacement for Grant Balfour at the back end of their bullpen and they do it without making a commitment beyond this season. While an eight-figure salary is a lot for a closer, the A's had some money to work with, and could very easily opt to let him walk next offseason.
Picking him up now as a "rental" player makes more sense than waiting until midseason only to realize they need to upgrade in the bullpen, and at a time when it likely would have cost more to acquire him.
Loser: Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark (2 of the 3)
The Nationals no doubt bolstered their starting rotation with the acquisition of Doug Fister, and they have a wealth of starting pitching depth to work with now as Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark will all be in the running for the No. 5 starter spot.
All three of those guys have earned a chance at a rotation spot this coming season, but only one of them will wind up filling the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
The other two come away as clear losers in this deal, though they will still be in position to be pitching for a contender should injury strike.
Winner: Robbie Ray
A 12th-round pick in the 2010 draft out of Brentwood High School in Tennessee, Robbie Ray entered the 2013 season as the No. 18 prospect in the Nationals system, according to Baseball America.
The left-hander was coming off of a poor season at the High-A level, having gone 4-12 with a 6.56 ERA and 1.618 WHIP, but the stuff was still there for him to emerge as a top prospect.
That's exactly what he did in 2013, splitting the year between High-A and Double-A as a 21-year-old and going a combined 11-5 with a 3.36 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 142 innings of work.
Good as those numbers were, and as bright as his future looks, Ray still found himself at least behind A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito as the Nationals top pitching prospect. Those two, coupled with their current rotation, left Ray with an uphill climb to crack the Nationals rotation in the near future.
Now, post-trade, Ray finds himself ranked as the No. 2 pitching prospect in the Tigers system and far ahead of the man ranked above him (Jonathon Crawford) as far as his development is concerned. If he continues to impress, Ray could find himself in Detroit at some point in 2014.
Winner: Max Scherzer
The Tigers have been busy this offseason, trading Prince Fielder and Doug Fister in separate deals to free up a good deal of money to work with.
That money may very well wind up going towards an extension for reigning AL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, who is set to hit free agency at the end of the season.
With Scott Boras as hit agent, and without an extension in place entering a contract year, it made sense that the Tigers were open to the idea of dealing Scherzer earlier this offseason, according to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.
However, these two recent trades may put them in a position to bring Scherzer back with a huge extension, and according to ESPN that is exactly what Scherzer wants.
I don't want to be traded. I got a great thing going in Detroit, we have a great team. I hope they don't mess with it. I want to be a Detroit Tiger and hopefully get back to the playoffs and try to do the ultimate goal and win something for the city of Detroit.
Loser: Detroit Tigers
The Tigers have moved aggressively to free up payroll space while still filling needs this offseason, likely putting themselves in a position to re-sign Max Scherzer at the end of the season and perhaps opening the door for an impact signing in left field as well.
Doug Fister was projected to earn $6.9 million in arbitration this year, so moving him certainly made sense from a financial standpoint, but it's hard to believe the Tigers were not able to get more in return for him.
The 29-year-old went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA while reaching the 200-inning mark for the second time in his career last year. He is under team control through the end of the 2015 season, making him that much more valuable, yet the Tigers seem to have settled.
Steve Lombardozzi (.259/.278/.338) is a versatile utility man but far from an impact bat and Ian Krol (32 G, 3.95 ERA) is a decent left-handed reliever.
The key acquisition was 21-year-old left-hander Robbie Ray (11-5, 3.36 ERA, 10.1 K/9 at High-A and Double-A), and MLB.com ranks him as the Tigers' No. 3 prospect now, but the Tigers should have been able to get more and wound up settling for less than they wanted.
According to a tweet from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Tigers also wanted pitcher Taylor Jordan in the deal, but when the Nationals wouldn't budge they settled for the package they received.
Winner: Washington Nationals
The 2013 season was nothing short of a disappointment for the Washington Nationals, as they opened the season as one of the favorites to win the NL pennant but stumbled out of the gates and wound up missing the postseason.
A subpar offense was the biggest culprit for their first-half struggles, but with Dan Haren gone in free agency the team was in the market to add another starting pitcher to its already deep rotation this offseason.
The trio of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann ranks as one of the best in baseball, and went a combined 38-26 with a 3.21 ERA. However, the rest of the team's starters went just 19-28 with a 4.21 ERA, and the addition of Fister gives it arguably the best rotation in baseball.
That leaves someone from the trio of Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark to fill the No. 5 starter spot and leaves the team with terrific depth in the rotation.