SOUTH HILLS – Given the lack of quality starting pitchers available and the soaring costs of average starting pitching on the free agent market, and given that the entire baseball world knew the Tigers had placed Doug Fister on the trade market, it was stunning to see how little the Washington Nationals gave up to acquire the underrated right-handed pitcher. If Fister was on the free agent market this offseason, he might very well be the No. 1 free agent pitching option.
The Nationals gave up two fringe roster pieces in Steve Lombardozzi, Ian Krol and their No. 5 prospect in Robbie Ray. It’s a price many teams in baseball, including the Pirates, could have matched or exceeded.
You might not realize just how good Fister is since he’s been lost in the shadow of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer.
Consider these numbers from Baseball Prospectus:
Here’s a list of the 10 best pitchers by FIP from 2011-13, minimum 500 innings pitched:
Fister doesn’t walk anybody. He had the No. 3 groundball rate in baseball last year and if he pitched in front of a better defense (think Pirates or Rays) he might have put up an elite ERA. He is very creative with his cutter, 12-6 curve and plus changeup.
Said Nationals GM Mike Rizzo to the Washington Post:
“We really had identified Doug as our primary acquisition target as far as starting pitchers go,” Rizzo said. “We thought he was an undervalued asset.” …
The Nationals believe Fister’s strengths will only be extenuated in Washington. He will face opposing starters rather than designated hitters. The Nationals’ infield figures to suck up more of those groundballs than the Tigers’. New manager Matt Williams brought with him Mark Weidemaier, a coach whose sole job is to position fielders based on scouting and analytics.
“With our defensive alignment I think that he’ll thrive here,” Rizzo said. “He’s a guy that does a lot of the little things that will really translate into the National League.”
He’s under club control for the next two years when he’ll command somewhere in the ballpark of $16 million in arbitration. But, again, given the prospect price and the free agent market it represents very good value.
The rest of the National League might be kicking itself today because the Nationals just got better.
The Nationals were a buy-low sort of team for 2014 before Monday, coming off a year when they failed to meet expectations and now they added a No. 2/No. 3 type starter to an already talented rotation.
What it means for the Pirates, Reds and Cardinals is winning a wild card just became more difficult in 2014. And with the Cardinals improving their overall defense and their offensive blackhole at shortstop, it is a wild card the Pirates might again be fighting for in 2014.
KNOWING YOUR TALENT
I have no idea if the Priates were serious players on Fister, but he fits the profile of what the club is seeking in a pitcher. Perhaps the Tigers’ asks were higher because the Pirates’ system is so rich. Just a theory.
While much of the hot-stove talk centers on other team’s players and the free agent market, it’s important to note that the most important skill an organization possesses during the offseason is knowing its own talent.
Baseball America editor John Manuel notes the Blue Jays have failed at this in regard to their catching position.
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) December 3, 2013
REDS IN DECLINE?
We know the Reds are unlikely to resign Shin-Soo Choo, which is a considerable loss given his other-worldly OBP. There is talk that Brandon Phillips is also a candidate to be move and on Tuesday the Reds traded catcher Ryan Hanigan to the Rays.
It might not seem like much but the Rays typically win trades. Hanigan had a down year last season but he has a career .359 OBP for a catcher is a is a plus pitch-framer.
And he can also control a running game.
In last 2 seasons, opponents have 52 SB and 38 catcher-caught stealings against Ryan Hanigan. Only catcher better at thwarting SB- Yadi
— Mark Simon (@msimonespn) December 3, 2013
While I like the Price hire as a manager, the Reds still seam to be behind in 21st century baseball thought, and could be in store for a step back this summer.