Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
The Detroit Tigers took a gamble when they traded away fourth starter Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for a trio of players—lefty reliever Ian Krol, minor league southpaw Robbie Ray and utility man Steve Lombardozzi.
From the outside, it appears the team made the move in an effort to get something in return for Fister before he walks as a free agent following the 2015 season. Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors estimated Fister would earn $6.9 million in arbitration this winter, which is a bargain at the going rate of free-agent pitching.
The Tigers still have arguably baseball's best trio of starters in Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez, but Fister has been solid over the past three seasons with a combined 35-32 record, 3.30 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 6.8 K/9.
Krol and Lombardozzi are expected to contribute in 2014 as role players, but Ray is just a promising prospect with a 4.0 BB/9 rate in three minor league seasons who split 2013 between Single-A and Double-A.
Coupled with the Prince Fielder/Ian Kinsler trade that relieved $76 million in commitments, the Tigers look like they are trying to free up some room in an effort to keep Scherzer around beyond 2014. But Fister isn't expensive for a starter of his value, and he would have provided a great insurance policy if Scherzer leaves for another team.
The Nationals got the better of this lopsided deal, securing a solid veteran right-hander to bolster their strong rotation without giving up any major pieces.