The dearth of higher-end starting pitchers on the free-agent market and the cost of what is left led Monday to the alternative: The Washington Nationals acquired veteran right-hander Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for three players: infielder/outfielder Steve Lombardozzi, 22-year-old left-hander Ian Krol, and minor-league lefty Robbie Ray.
Starting pitching was the greatest off-season need for the Nationals. The Tigers, who lead their rotation with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Drew Smyly, had a spare.
Fister will fall in with Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez and one other – from Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Ross Detwiler and Ross Ohlendorf – to make up one of the better rotations in the National League. Veteran Dan Haren, whose only season with the Nats netted 10 wins and a 4.67 ERA, signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After being traded to the Tigers from Seattle at the 2011 trading deadline, Fister was 32-20 with a 3.29 ERA. He also had a 2.98 ERA in eight postseason appearances, seven of them starts.
Fister was due to make about $7 million through arbitration, which they now can put toward future contracts for Miguel Cabrera and Scherzer.
Ray, 22, was a top 10 prospect for the Nationals. He had a 3.36 ERA and 160 strikeouts in 142 innings last season, pitching in Class-A and Double-A. Krol had a 3.95 ERA in 32 appearances for the Nationals as a rookie in 2013. He will be a reliever for the Tigers, who needed bullpen help. Lombardozzi, 25, played in 244 games for Washington the past two seasons. He is an infielder and corner outfielder.
The trade was the second of significance this winter for the Tigers, who also replaced manager Jim Leyland, who retired, with first-timer Brad Ausmus. Not two weeks ago, they traded first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Fielder was just two years into a nine-year, $214 million contract with the Tigers.