April 19, 2021

OPINION: Rizzo steals Fister from Tigers for spare parts

You don’t need me to tell you that the Washington Nationals flat-out stole Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers on Cyber Monday.

But I’m going to anyway.

If you’re a baseball fan, you’ve no doubt by now read dozens of opinions that Mike Rizzo absolutely robbed his counterpart, Tigers’ GM Dave Dombrowski. Actually, most of the professional comments have been more of the bewildered sort than any other trade in recent memory.

Let’s not mince words here: The Nats acquired one of the top 25 pitchers in all of baseball, under contract for two more years at a reasonable rate, for a Quad-A middle infielder, a LOOGY with maturity issues, and a mid-level left-handed pitching prospect.

This gives the Nationals a starting rotation with four of the top 25 starters in the game.

Fister is one of the more underrated players in the game today. By all metrics, he ranks among the most durable, consistently excellent starters in the bigs. He’s a ground ball machine, and going to be playing the next several seasons with the best defense he’s had behind him. He doesn’t walk batters, and he very rarely gives up home runs.

There are two reasons he’s largely been ignored when the discussion of the best starters in the league comes up: his fastball sits around 89 MPH and he doesn’t put up gaudy strikeout totals. His career average of 6.3 per nine is rather pedestrian, but coupled with a career walk rate of 1.8, his K/BB rate of 3.46 is awesome.

Number one on Baseball-Reference’s “Similarity Score” for Fister, which compares players based on statistics accumulated and projected, is Jordan Zimmermann. Enough said.

But to get, you have to give. What did the Nats really give up?

Let’s discuss Robbie Ray, the only player the Nats gave up that might have a ceiling, first. The 6’2″, 170 22-year old just completed his 4th minor league season, split between A+ and AA. He posted a combined 11-5 with 3.36 ERA, 1.254 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. He pitches in the low 90s and can hit mid-90s when he dials it up. His command though is still a work in progress, as his BB/9 was 3.9.

He was ranked as the Nats’ third or fourth highest pitching prospect depending on who you like to listen to, but if he can’t develop his changeup in the next year or two he’s going to end up in the pen.

We had Ray as the Nats’ 12th overall prospect and the sixth pitcher behind Cole, Giolito, Karns, Solis and Purke.

Ray could develop into a quality MLB starting pitcher, a lefty to boot. He could end up a quality arm in a big league bullpen. He could be a LOOGY. He could get exposed at Triple-A, where he has yet to throw a pitch.

But we know that Doug Fister is a quality Major League starter.

What about the two roster players the Nats gave up?

I want to be kind here, as I know that Steve Lombardozzi has more than his share of fans in the D.C. area. But he’s exactly like his father with regards to his potential as a big leaguer: he’s already reached it. He is — at best — a utility middle infielder, and really nothing more than a backup second baseman. He barely has the arm strength to cover second at the big league level, let alone trying to make the long throw at short. It’s just not there, not to mention his lack of range.

At the plate, Lombo is a “Punch-and-Judy” slap hitter, devoid of any power whatsoever. He has no plate discipline, and can’t run. What gets him by is his unwavering work ethic and willingness to play anywhere the manager puts him, however out of position that might be. Shoot, he was the emergency catcher last season.

Ian Krol, the “player to be named later” in the Michael Morse trade last season from Oakland, has a decent power lefty arm, but should never be allowed to face a right-handed batter. He is the very definition of “replacement player”.

Lesser starting pitchers than Fister have been acquired via trade the past two seasons for far more quality than the Nats gave up in this deal. The Royals gave the Rays Wil Myers for James Shields, and Fister is every bit Shields’ equal, if not better.

Perhaps Dombrowski knows something about Fister health-wise we don’t. Maybe Fister spent his off-season kicking babies and throwing rocks at people at charity events. Who knows? But what we do know is that Fister is one of the top two dozen or so MLB starting pitchers, and he’ll be wearing a Curly W next season, making the Nats rotation one of the top-three in the league.

And all they gave up to get him was a backup middle infielder, a LOOGY and a marginal lefty starter prospect.

BREAKING: Nationals acquire Doug Fister from Detroit Tigers

The Washington Nationals have acquired right-handed pitcher Doug Fister from the Detroit Tigers in exchange for infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed reliever Ian Krol and left-handed prospect Robbie Ray.

Fister went 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 2013 for the defending AL Central Champions. He allowed just 0.6 home runs per nine innings pitched, which ranked second-best in the AL. The 29 year-old, 6-foot-8 Merced, Calif. native holds a five-year career 3.53 ERA and 44-50 win-loss record.

In eight career postseason appearances, including one World Series start, Fister has earned a 3-2 record with a 2.98 ERA.

The acquisition is – no doubt – a win for General Manager Mike Rizzo. Lombardozzi recorded a less-than-stellar slash line of .259/.278/.338, although his 13 pinch hits ranked second-most in baseball.

“This is an exciting day for the Washington Nationals,” Rizzo said in a press release. “We feel we’ve added a talented, young veteran to our starting pitching corps. Doug is battle-tested through playoff experiences, and the depth he brings to our staff is exceptional. We are thrilled to welcome him aboard.”

At 22 years-old, Krol showed some promise for the Nationals, who acquired him in a three-way deal that brought A.J. Cole and Blake Treinen into the Nationals’ organization and sent Michael Morse to Seattle. Krol’s record sells short the fact he did not allow a run in his first nine appearances in the Big Leagues. He earned a 2-1 record and a 3.95 ERA in a season which few would have predicted to see him take the mound.

Ray, also 22, was rated the fifth-best prospect in the Nats’ system by Baseball America. He earned a combined 3.36 ERA with Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg.

Fister was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the seventh round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2006. He was acquired, along with David Pauley, by the Tigers on July 30, 2011, in exchange for Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Chance Ruffin and Casper Wells.

By  trading Fister, the Tigers will reportedly save about $6 million. Fister was arbitration-eligible and projected to earn about $7 million.

Rumors had circulated in recent weeks that the Tigers were looking to free up room in their rotation to allow left-hander Drew Smyly to return to a starter role.

Washington Nationals Game 59 Review: Oh, mediocrity! Nats fall into third place with loss to Mets

All the good feelings from the Washington Nationals’ first walk-off win of the season didn’t even last 24 hours.

Nats starter Dan Haren was hit early and often, and lasted just four innings, as the New York Mets — ten games under .500 themselves — scored five runs in the first three innings and cruised to a 10-1 win as Washington’s moribund offense never mustered any type of attack whatsoever.

With the loss, the Nats drop below .500 again (29-30) and to add insult to injury, slid into third place in the N.L. East behind their arch-rival Philadelphia Phillies.

Haren actually got through the first inning unscathed, and the Nats gave him an early lead when Ian Desmond’s two-out single in the bottom of the first brought home Denard Span from third base.

That would be the end of the highlights for Nats fans.

Lucas Duda led off the second with a double to right, then Marlon Byrd clobbered an 84-MPH splitter from Haren that just hung in the middle of the plate.

The Mets went right back after Haren in the third. Daniel Murphy’s one-out single preceded David Wright’s eighth homer of the season. After Duda flew out to center, Byrd punished a cutter that didn’t cut, driving his eighth home run to left to make it 5-1.

The competitive portion of the contest was over.

The Nats had runners on base in every inning but one, but managed just the lone run in the first inning. Their best chance to score came in the fourth, down 5-1. With runners at second and third and one out, though, Span struck out swinging on three pitches, then Jayson Werth struck out looking on three pitches.

The Mets picked up two runs in the fifth off Craig Stammen and three off Erik Davis in the seventh inning adding to the embarrassing total.

It was that kind of night, in that kind of a season.

THE GOOD: The lone bright spot for the Nats was the Major League debut of reliever Ian Krol, who gave up a double to his first batter, but then struck out three straight to leave the runner stranded.

THE BAD: Steve Lombardozzi, Tuesday night’s “hero” for his walk-off sac fly, went 0-for-4 to drop his slash line for the season to .228/.241/.290.

THE UGLY: Dan Haren. I’ve been patient with the veteran starter, hoping that the glimpses we’ve seen here and there would become the norm and not the anomaly. But that’s just not the case. Five earned on seven hits, including three home runs. He’s tied for most home runs allowed now and he’s just not getting it done. Unfortunately, with Detwiler still on the D.L. and Strasburg joining him there, there really aren’t any other options unless Haren comes up lame again too.

THE STATS: 8 hits, 1 BB, 6 Ks. 2-for-9 with RISP, 8 LOB. No errors, no DPs.

NEXT GAME: Thursday at 7:05 pm against the Mets. Gio Gonzalez (3-3, 3.64) hosts Shaun Marcum (0-6, 5.71)

Washington Nationals make roster changes before series with Mets

Sitting with a record below .500 after Memorial Day is no way for a World Series hopeful to conduct business.

Tuesday, before their game against the New York Mets, The Washington Nationals placed second baseman Danny Espinosa on the 15-day D.L. with a broken right wrist, recalled infielder Anthony Rendon, and designated Henry Rodriguez and Zach Duke for assignment. In addition, the team called up LHP Ian Krol, who was acquired in the off-season trade of Michael Morse.

Saying Espinosa has struggled this season is a gross understatement. The 26-year-old was hitting .158/.193/.272 at the time of his disabling with just three homers and 12 RBIs this season. He had struck out 47 times and walked just four times. He injured his left shoulder last August and later was diagnosed with a partially torn rotator cuff. In April of this year, he was hit with a Paul Maholm fastball and was later diagnoses with a fracture and bone chips in his right wrist.

According to reports in the clubhouse, Espinosa cleared his locker out. It’s not usual protocol for a player on the 15-day D.L. to clear out his locker.

Rendon starts his second stint with the team. He was recently promoted to AAA and got three games in for Syracuse before being recalled. He played all three games at second base. Rendon hit .307/.452/.575 between Harrisburg and Syracuse this season.

Rodriguez, the 100-MPH fireballing reliever, owned a 4.00 ERA and 1.667 WHIP at the time of his release. Always one to have trouble with his control, he was walking a whopping 8.0 per nine innings while his usually stellar K/9 was down to 5.5.

Duke was 1-1 with a 8.71 ERA and 1.887 WHIP in 12 games, including one start.

Krol. a 22-year-old left-handed reliever, had a 0.69 ERA, 0.8080 WHIP and 10.0 K/p in AA-Harrisburg and has never pitched above Double-A.


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