The benefit for Detroit, general manager Dave Dombrowski believes, will be two-pronged thanks to Fister's absence. A rotation spot opens for Drew Smyly, and the Tigers add cash to their war chest as they eye locking up Max Scherzer to a long-term deal.
Detroit received Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed pitcher Ian Krol and minor league lefty Robbie Ray from Washington.
Dombrowski said in a press release, "We are excited to be adding three solid players to the organization. Robbie is a premium pitching prospect, Ian adds a quality left-handed young arm for the bullpen, and Steve provides our ballclub with versatility in several roles as a switch-hitting utilityman."
Fister, 29, finished 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 33 regular-season games (32 starts) for Detroit in 2013. He also went 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in two postseason starts.
Since joining the Tigers in a July 2011 deal that sent pitcher Charlie Furbush and reliever Casper Wells to the Seattle Mariners, Fister compiled a 32-20 record with a 3.29 ERA in 70 games (68 starts).
His spot in the rotation is earmarked for Smyly. A 24-year-old left-hander, Smyly went 6-0 with two saves and a 2.37 ERA in 63 relief appearances for Detroit last season. He made 18 starts for the Tigers in 2012, going 4-3 with a 3.79 ERA.
Lombardozzi, 25, split time between second base and left field for Washington this year. In 118 games, he batted .259 with a .278 on-base percentage, a .338 slugging percentage, two homers and 22 RBIs.
Krol, 22, made 32 relief appearances for the Nationals as a rookie this year. He went 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA.
Ray, 22, split the season between high Class A Potomac and Double-A Hagerstown, going 11-5 with a 3.36 ERA in 27 starts.
2013: 93-69, first place in AL Central, lost to Red Sox in AL Championship Series
TEAM MVP: Miguel Cabrera's value to the Tigers is as easily illustrated by his late-season injuries as when he is a healthy Triple Crown threat. Detroit had a winning record without Cabrera in the lineup, but toward the end of September, the run production declined noticeably as he dealt with a groin injury. Still, Cabrera led the league in batting average (.348), on-base percentage (.442), slugging percentage (.636), and he finished second in home runs (44) and RBIs (137).
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: LHP Phil Coke went from filling in impressively as the closer during the 2012 postseason to a winless reliever who is in danger of not being on the postseason roster because of a sore left elbow. Coke was 0-5 with a 5.40 ERA and was sent to the minors in mid-August to work out his pitch location problems. Too many Coke fastballs and slurves have seen the heart of the plate and been hit hard. His inability to get left-handed hitters out and a propensity for walks has made manager Jim Leyland reluctant to use him in crucial situations.
TOP PROSPECT: Nick Castellanos has a lot of work to do on his left-field defense two years into the transition from third base, but it appears he's going to get a full shot at winning the starting job next spring. Castellanos, 21, has a lot to learn about patience at the plate, at least off what he showed during his sparse September playing time with the Tigers, when he hit .278 in 11 games. The lanky 6-foot-4 Castellanos hit .276 with 18 home runs and 76 RBIs for Triple-A Toledo. He has good speed going from first to third and with experience should hit 20-30 home runs in the majors. He was the club's top draft choice, 44th overall, in one of three straight years (2010) the Tigers did not have a first-round pick, and was given above-slot money to sign.
--RHP Joe Nathan and the Tigers were closing in on a two-year agreement, multiple media outlets reported Dec. 3. He would fill the closer role that became a void for Detroit in 2013. Nathan appeared in 67 games for the Rangers this year, going 6-2 with a 1.39 ERA and 43 saves.
--UT Don Kelly and Tigers avoided a potential arbitration case, agreeing to a one-year, $1 million deal on Dec. 2. Kelly, 33, hit .222 with six homers in 112 games in 2013, starting 52 games.
--LHP Phil Coke and the Tigers avoided a potential arbitration case, agreeing to a one-year, $1.9 million contract. In 49 relief appearances in 2013, Coke went 0-5 with a 5.40 ERA while making $1.85 million. He spent part of the season in the minor leagues.
--3B Miguel Cabrera became the seventh player to win back-to-back American League MVPs, dominating the voting for the second year in a row. Cabrera, who finished in the top two in the league in every major offensive category this year, received 23 of 30 first-place votes for the AL honor from members of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout came in second, receiving five first-place votes.
In 148 games this year, Cabrera led the AL in batting average (.348), on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.636). He finished second to Baltimore's Chris Davis in home runs (44) and RBIs (137).
--RHP Max Scherzer was named the 2013 American League Cy Young Award after going 21-3 while striking out a career-high 240 batters. He received 28 of the 30 first place votes, with Tigers RHP Anibal Sanchez and White Sox LHP Chris Sale getting the other two votes. Rangers RHP Yu Darvish was the runner-up.
--RHP Jose Veras, who gave up a decisive grand slam to Red Sox RF Shane Victorino in Game 6 of the AL Championship Series, might be done as a Tiger. Detroit declined to pick up Veras' $4 million option for 2014. Veras, 33, went 0-1 with a 3.20 ERA in 25 regular-season appearances for Detroit after he was picked up from Houston to serve as a setup man. He had 19 saves, an 0-4 record and a 2.93 ERA in 42 games for the Astros this year. The Tigers gave him a $150,000 buyout.
--3B Miguel Cabrera, who was slowed by a groin strain late in the season and into the playoffs, underwent surgery Oct. 29. Philadelphia specialist William C. Meyers performed the operation, which will necessitate a six- to eight-week rehab. Cabrera should be at full strength for spring training.
--RHP Max Scherzer will be a hot topic as he enters his final season before he can become a free agent. Big money awaits the AL Cy Young Award winner at this time next year, if not before. "That stuff works itself out," Scherzer said. "There's really not much for me to say about it." Already speculation has begun Detroit might trade Scherzer at midseason if it can't sign him to a long-term deal before the season. It could become a distraction for Scherzer as the season moves along.
--LF/SS Jhonny Peralta became a free agent at the end of the World Series. "There's a chance for sure, yeah," Peralta said when asked if he'd accept a position switch to remain with Detroit, "because I like the organization here. Do I want to be here? Yeah, I want to be here." His job as the starting shortstop belongs to Jose Iglesias, and rookie Nick Castellanos is expected to have first dibs on left field entering spring training, leaving Peralta without a position.
--2B Omar Infante would like to return to Detroit and the Tigers would like to have him but his status as a probable free agent at the end of the World Series could preclude that. "I want to be back," Infante, 31, said. "I love this team. This organization has a lot of good players. Great team. That's why I want to come back. But it's business. I have to wait, and we'll see what happens." Infante missed more than a month with a left ankle sprain but hit well until going into a slump in mid-September.
--RHP Joaquin Benoit is eligible for free agency but his return depends on offers other teams may have for his services and whether Detroit views him as its closer going forward or would like to return him to his setup role. "I feel really proud of all the guys here," he said. "I think everybody did their best. Hopefully, next year we continue to get better." Benoit, 36, will let things settle down before he thinks about his contract. "I don't want to think about it right now," Benoit said. "I want to digest this and see what's going to happen later on."
--INF Ramon Santiago, 34, may have come to the end of his time with Detroit. Santiago, who came up to Detroit in 2002, was traded to Seattle for Carlos Guillen and returned to the Tigers as a free agent, has played out the $4 million deal he signed two winters ago and Detroit may be looking to go minimum-wage for that bench seat. Santiago didn't have a good first half but perked up with more playing time when 2B Omar Infante got hurt in July and when 3B Miguel Cabrera needed time to deal with his injuries.
--1B Prince Fielder will be a big target next spring for fans disappointed at his lack of success in postseason play. Fielder has gone 18 playoff games without an RBI spanning two postseasons. He said after Boston eliminated Detroit in Game 6 of the ALCS on Oct. 19 that it would be easy to slip back into civilian life. "It's not really tough for me," Fielder said. "It's over. I've got kids I've got to take care of. I've got things I've got to take care of. For me, it's over, bro."
--RHP Bruce Rondon, who was making giant strides toward becoming Detroit's closer in the near future until being sidelined by a sore right elbow in September, will be watched closely next spring for any signs of lingering soreness. Rondon pitched just once after noticing the discomfort and was not a part of the Tigers' postseason rosters. Several examinations showed nothing structurally wrong with the elbow but it's something to watch in the spring.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I hate to see it end. I always hate to see it end." -- DH Victor Martinez, who lingered in the Detroit dugout as long as he could before returning to the clubhouse to shower away the disappointment of being eliminated at Boston in the sixth game of the American League Championship Series.
The Tigers began their offseason work a blockbuster deal that brought in 2B Ian Kinsler while shedding 1B Prince Fielder.
Detroit still must determining whether to bring back free agent RHP Joaquin Benoit. More and better back-end bullpen help will be high on the team's list of offseason things to do. It was an area of concern with the season-long loss of RHP Octavio Dotel, a poor season by LHP Phil Coke and the sidelining of rookie Bruce Rondon with a sore right elbow in September.
The organization has to decide whether to hand left field to rookie Nick Castellanos in the spring or get a veteran with some power.
BIGGEST NEEDS: Veteran power arms at the back end of the bullpen are a priority, especially if the club fails to retain RHP Joaquin Benoit, who stepped in and did an outstanding job as the closer. A decision on next year's left fielder must be made.
ARRIVALS: 2B Ian Kinsler (trade with Rangers), INF Steve Lombardozzi (trade with Nationals), LHP Ian Krol (trade with Nationals)
DEPARTURES: 1B Prince Fielder (traded to Rangers), C Brayan Pena (free agent, signed with Reds), SS Jhonny Peralta (free agent, signed with Cardinals), RHP Doug Fister (traded to Nationals)
FREE AGENTS: RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Jeremy Bonderman, RHP Octavio Dotel, 2B Omar Infante, INF Ramon Santiago, RHP Jose Veras
Detroit would like to retain Benoit, but he may get better offers elsewhere. Infante is likely gone after the trade that brought in 2B Ian Kinsler. Dotel won't return and is expected to retire. Santiago likely will be allowed to leave.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: RHP Al Alburquerque, C Alex Avila, OF Andy Dirks, CF Austin Jackson, RHP Rick Porcello, RHP Max Scherzer, INF Danny Worth, 3B David Freese, RHP Fernando Salas
The Tigers probably will continue their record of not having had a player go to arbitration under GM Dave Dombrowski's leadership.
IN LIMBO: OF Andy Dirks, RHP Luke Putkonen, RHP Evan Reed, INF Danny Worth
--3B Miguel Cabrera (groin surgery in October 2013) should be fully recovered in time for spring training.
--RHP Luis Marte (right shoulder surgery in June 2013) has an uncertain status for next season.
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