By Ashley Dunkak
DETROIT (CBS DETROIT) – General manager Dave Dombrowski knows many people will not like this trade.
Doug Fister filled a key if underrated role in the 2013 Detroit Tigers rotation, one of the undisputed best in baseball. Now Fister, who won 14 games and recorded a 3.67 ERA over 208.2 innings, is with the Washington Nationals.
In return the Tigers acquired starting pitching prospect Robbie Ray, left-handed relief pitcher Ian Krol and utility man Steve Lombardozzi.
“You’re always prepared when you trade the known for the unknown that people in general don’t like those type of moves,” Dombrowski said. “For us, we end up in a position where we get a quality young left-handed pitcher in Robbie Ray but also very close to the major leagues at this point, just sitting on the doorstep ready to step and pitch at the big-league level; a quality young left-handed reliever who’s ready to be one of our lefties in the bullpen right now, projects to be a No. 1 type of lefty; and really one of the best utility players in baseball that can help us at second, short, outfield.”
As solid as Fister pitched for the Tigers, Dombrowski essentially said Detroit could still have a great rotation without him because of the other young pitchers already on the team.
“We feel our starting depth at this time allowed us to make the deal to move Drew Smyly into the rotation,” Dombrowski said. “We think Rick Porcello’s ready to assume more of a role as the No. 4 starter and give us in turn a guy like Robbie Ray who we think has a chance to be a very fine Major League pitcher sitting in Triple-A ready to help out in the near future.”
Smyly’s 2.37 ERA through 63 appearances made him by far one of the most effective relievers for the Tigers in 2013. Porcello, who worked in the No. 5 slot, won 13 games and recorded a 4.32 ERA over 177 innings.
Ray pitched for Single A Potomac and Double A Harrisburg in 2013, recording an ERA of 3.36 over 142 innings pitched.
“You start talking about young starting pitchers that are on the verge of pitching in the big leagues that [the] type of projection would be No. 3 starters or above, they’re hard to find and they’re also not easily acquired,” Dombrowski said. “It provides us some depth in the very near future. In case anything were to happen to one of our guys this year, we felt that it would be important that we would need to have that type of guy back in any kind of deal.”
Krol, 22, finished his rookie season as a lefty reliever with a 3.95 ERA over 27.1 innings pitched in 32 games. His presence is expected to help shore up a bullpen that hampered the Tigers repeatedly in 2013.
Lombardozzi, 24, played primarily second base and left field for the Nationals, though he also spent a little time at third. He hit .259 with a .278 on-base percentage. Essentially, he will be replacing utility man Ramon Santiago.
“I’ve already called [Ramon’s] representative,” Dombrowski said. “Ramon’s done a tremendous job for us throughout the years, but with this acquisition, I don’t see what would really leave a spot for him. They understood it when they saw the deal being made.”
All three players acquired are in their early 20s, and the general manager said youth was part of the idea.
“You’re always juggling mixing some young players into a veteran club,” Dombrowski said. “I always think that that’s the best way to do it if you can. And we just thought at this time it was an opportunity that we got players that we like, a guy that we think is a No. 1 left-hander that will be that type of guy and a guy that projects to be a real solid major-league starter and a real good big-league player in Lombardozzi.”
As far as what needs the Tigers still have to fill, Dombrowski offered one main goal.
“We hope to get a closer,” Dombrowski said. ” That would be our number one need at this point.”