Even though the Detroit Tigers' move to ship starter Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals is over three months old, that doesn't stop many from considering the transaction one sided. Despite that, one performance from Robbie Ray proved patience will be best served with this deal.
Though others are coming around, count FanGraphs' Dave Cameron as a national non-believer. Cameron listed the Fister trade as number one on his list of the ten best deals of the offseason, saying the Nationals "stole" Fister from Detroit. Cameron went on to say that "no one" still understands the deal, and the move is "universally accepted" as a heist. Rob Neyer of Fox Sports used Cameron's analysis in his article, along with a piece by colleague Ken Rosenthal, who interviewed Dave Dombrowski in Florida, attempting to explain Detroit's side.
Talking aside Tuesday, the rubber began to meet the road on the move as Ray was on the hill for the Tigers, who took on Florida Southern in the spring training opener. While Florida Southern is a college program and Ray was facing collegiate batters, he was no less impressive on the mound. Six batters faced Ray at the plate, and five went down via strikeout. At the same time, Steve Lombardozzi slugged a double as Detroit won a meaningless game 12-0.
The result may have been meaningless, save of course the contributions of the trade headliners. Patience will be a virtue for both Tigers' fans and media members as it relates to this particular trade. Many remain publicly puzzled by the move, but as Ray begins to showcase elite strikeout ability as he did yesterday, the trade starts to make even more sense. Dave Dombrowski covets power arms capable of missing bats. He wanted a lefty in the rotation and Drew Smyly fit the bill. He needed a young replacement for Smyly in the bullpen, hence Ian Krol's inclusion. All the while, Dombrowski knew he needed a younger version of Ramon Santiago, which will be provided by Lombardozzi.
Considering need, Detroit may win the trade based on numbers alone. Had Fister been swapped in a one-for-one situation, it would be easier to be critical of Dombrowski. Chances are, even if Ray doesn't show up in Detroit this season, Lombardozzi and Krol will play a major role for the team. If Fister doesn't perform as well as he had with the Tigers, suddenly, Washington will look like a "loser," being they gave up three players to get one.
Point being, the trade might not be the open and shut case Cameron believes either way on February 26, 2014. Sometimes, baseball is over-analyzed thanks to the prevalence of detailed statistics and advanced metrics. At times last year, Fister did look shaky on the mound, regardless of how elite his WAR might be. Despite the fact that Baseball America doesn't seem to respect Ray doesn't mean he can't become a quality major league pitcher.
The Tigers and Dombrowski apparently got the return they wanted for Fister and were moved to make the deal. Considering Dombrowski's track record, that should be reason enough to let the move breathe. There's no reason the Tigers and Nationals can't each win this move in their own unique way. Though Washington has been lauded for the move, Mike Rizzo made it clear to Rosenthal he wasn't doing any victory dances, and that was good enough for Rosenthal to say he's ready to wait and see on the move.
The Tigers did not feel they could do better … and the Nationals did not part with Ray easily. "By no means was it painless," Rizzo said. "We're not pounding our chest on that one."
Rizzo described Dombrowski as "one of the best in the game." Virtually every general manager shares that view. I'll withhold judgment on the Fister trade.
As Neyer admitted, he's prepared to withhold judgment as well. That patience is the right course of action. Tuesday afternoon, Ray's dress rehearsal proved why.
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