Last night the Nats traded for Doug Fister. On the surface it looks like a confounding deal that leans way toward the Nats. Are we missing anything?
Talking about it in the terms we laid out yesterday the Nats, in absolute value this will take a while to shake out. Fister, a 200IP 3.25 ERA starter (say 3-4 WAR) under control for two years, is obviously worth more than a young, maybe lefty specialist relief pitcher and a utility infielder (roughly a 1 WAR let's say), no matter how long they have them. The question in play is what does Robbie Ray become? That's going to be the absolute value tipping point. In relative value the Nats add 2-3 WAR and lose probably nothing from next year. Lombo and Krol will be replaced and Ray wouldn't play.
It's an easy win in the relative (make your team better) value and an early lead in the absolute (what each team ends up getting from the deal) value. It's not an huge steal just yet (because of Ray being a question mark) but it sure looks like it'll end up being one.
We're not missing anything in terms of the deal. Are we evaluating the players right?
Is Doug Fister really a "Top 10" pitcher?
Well... what they are really saying is "over the past 3 years fWAR (Fangraphs WAR) has Doug Fister as the 9th most valuable starting pitcher in the majors" Is that really the same thing as a Top 10 pitcher? No it isn't. Let's say we look at the past 2 years - 14th, or just last year - 12th. Or we look at rWAR (Baseball-Reference's WAR) last year - 21st. Or if you are a gut guy, are there only 9 guys you'd want on the mound before you'd call Doug Fister's name?
Of course who cares if he's not a Top 10 pitcher? His xFIP has been consistenly around 3.40 the past 2 years. His ERA just a bit higher. Toss in the AL-> NL move and he should give you a season like Gio or ZNN did last year. That's what Fister is, a Gio/ZNN like pitcher. A #2 who could pitch at times like a #1 or like a #3. Maybe since he's 30 you lean more toward the #3 side than the #1 but he's the Nats #4.
But he's a GB pitcher coming to the Nats great defense from the Tigers terrible one! That'll make him the bestestest!
No and Yes. Yes, the Tigers D was terrible. No, the Nats D isn't great. I'll remind you that the whole idea of the Nats as a GB vacuuming team was based around the gold glove caliber defense of Danny Espinosa. Desmond has stepped up his game, but Zimm has had his issues, LaRoche is fading, and Rendon is no Danny. It'll help but it won't be a revelation for Fister.
Is there something wrong with Fister you see in the stats?
As I noted above his ERA and xFIP are pretty close in line, meaning he's pitching as he should, no crazy drops should be expected. That's because everything has been pretty consistent. You're not seeing any big increases in LD rate or big drops in velocity. There's nothing out of line with his LOB% or HR% or BABIP. His GB rate is improving. His BB-rate is very good. He's a very good consistent pitcher.
If you are looking for problems you can point to some things. His K-rate did drop a bit. His contact rate on the high-side.. but that's not always telling. He does rely on a low HR/FB rate... but that's typical for a GB pitcher. Velocity IS down just a tick. Comerica and Nationals Park are both fairly average HR parks, but maybe taking into account that move and the NL East vs the AL Central, he'll give up a couple more homers than he would have. Like 2 more maybe? Nothing earth shattering (and remember they all expected Gio to crash HR wise and it never happened - guys adapt)
Stats-wise it's hard to make a case for anything to worry about. The worst thing you could say is Doug Fister is at the very beginning of his aging curve and has likely peaked. He might be in the 20-30 range for pitchers next year, 25-35 the year after that. This is the worst I can put out right now. Simply stated, for the next two years there is nothing sitting out stats-wise there to be worried about. Not in the basic fancy stats. If there's a crash coming here I don't see it.
What about injury wise?
Pretty healthy with one minor injury over the past 3 seasons. He will be 30 in February and is 6'8" tall so there's that but you worry about history first. So, no nothing here.
Fister sounds great! Is there anything we are underrating about Krol or Lombo?
There is one thing. Lombo is under team control for four more seasons. Krol is under team control for six more. That's a lot of time. Krol is also very young (he'll turn 23 next May) and Lombo is young enough that they should be at least as effective as they are now for the entirity of the Tiger's control.
That being said Lombo is Lombo. He has his positives which we talked about before so I'll just cut and paste : No patience, no power, not all that fast, average at best in the field.
That's not a starter. But he can do other things. He plays adequately
at SS and 3B, hits for .265 or so, and rarely strikes out. He's not all
that slow so he can pinch run and he can bunt. Not quite a "jack of all
trades", maybe an "8 of clubs of all trades", a smart manager can use a
player like Lombo.
Use Lombo right and he could be worth something on a major league bench. Over rely on him though and you're hurting your team.
Krol is more interesting. A lot of places are writing him off as a lefty specialist since righties hit him hard last year. But the kid is 22 and improved his RHB stats in the minors from 2012 (.282 / .321 / .455) to 2013 (.245 / .320 / .464). I think he's better than a LOOGY, but I don't think he's a future lights-out reliever. More a solid piece.
So not much there. What about Robbie Ray?
I can see what's appealing about Ray. He improved in nearly every way you'd want him to (Ks up, BBs down, HRs down, hits down) while moving up to AA. At 22 he does look to be on track to pitch in the majors. But what kind of pitcher? And could a second season in AA derail him? He was dismissingly bad just two years ago.
And that's part of the problem with trying to evaluate him. Was 2013 a fluke or is he showing serious consistent improvement? We don't have enough data to be sure. 2014 will probably give us a clearer picture of the type of pitcher Robbie Ray will be going forward. It could be he continues to improve, gets most of the year in AAA and looks like a mid-rotation guy with upside or it could be he struggles and looks like he might end up organizational depth. There's no certainty here.
I guess I'd say I wouldn't worry about it. The Nats gave up a guy who may be their 3rd best pitching prospect but really they only care about their first best one, Lucas Giolito. Everyone else down there is a question mark.
So... did the Nats win the trade?
With the caveat of "evaluating it right now". Yes. They did. Big time.
On a side note, why did the Tigers make this deal?
Oh, well near as I can figure they want Drew Smyly, who looks like he could be a very good starter, in the rotation. Verlander and Sanchez are set in the rotation for years. So that leaves kicking out Scherzer, Porcello, or Fister. Scherzer was better last year that Fister and is a little younger. Porcello is a lot younger. So you could see how Fister was the odd man out. (I guess. Really Scherzer should be, with his big contract coming up. You'd get a hell of a lot more value keeping Fister and Porcello, moving up Smyly and giving that Scherzer money to someone else... Cano? But then why trade for Kinsl... i'm getting off track here)
Ok with Smyly in the rotation they needed a LHP in the pen because Drew was their only good one there. That's why they wanted Ian Krol. As for Lombo, their current back-up infielders, Ramon Santiago (.224 / .298 / .288) and Hernan Perez (.197 .217 / .227) make Lombo look like an All-Star. If as he should Lombo hits .260 and walks a little bit more, he'll be a improvement. (You can aruge Santiago overall would match Lombo but Lombo is 9 years younger. I'd bet on Lombo)
Robbie Ray - who doesn't want a decent pitching prospect? Plus the Tigers prospect pitchers in general took a nose dive this year so he helps fill a gap that exists there.
Hmmm but couldn't they have gotten those minor improvements somewhere else for less than Fister?
Shhh. I'm not sure the ink is dry yet!