UPDATE: It’s done. The Nationals just announced that prospect left-hander Robbie Ray will also be sent to Detroit. So it’s Fister for Ray, Krol, and Lombardozzi. Interesting.
Ray has really improved his stock as a prospect over the past year, but it’s surprising that the Nationals were able to acquire Fister without giving up a more significant piece. Put differently, many GMs are probably kicking themselves for not calling the Tigers.
8:28 p.m. ET: Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Nationals are expected to send infielder Steve Lombardozzi, left-handed reliever Ian Krol, and a prospect to the Tigers in exchange for Fister. We don’t know who the prospect is yet, but the return feels a little light at the moment.
7:58 p.m. ET: We have a significant trade on our hands here, as Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish is reporting that the Nationals have acquired right-hander Doug Fister from the Tigers. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal confirms that the deal is done. No yet word on who is headed back to Detroit, but there will likely be other familiar names involved. Drew Storen could be a logical part of a return package, though that’s just speculation.
The Tigers have talked about giving left-hander Drew Smyly a shot in the starting rotation next season, so the club was expected to field trade offers for their starters this offseason. However, most expected that Rick Porcello would be the odd man out, especially after the Prince Fielder trade cleared salary for a potential contract extension for Max Scherzer. Fister is arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter after posting a 3.67 ERA and 159/44 K/BB ratio over 208 1/3 innings this past season. MLB Trade Rumors projected his salary to rise to rise to $6.9 million in 2014.
Fister is set to move from one impressive starting rotation to the next. He’ll join Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, and Ross Detwiler in Washington.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.