By: Kurt Snyder
Remember the day the Tigers acquired Doug Fister?
In 2011, he was a below-the-radar acquisition based on a horrible 3-12 record he had amassed with Seattle. But something was amiss. He had a relatively low 3.33 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Horrible run support was hiding a very good pitcher and the Tigers realized it and nabbed him.
Fister responded big time to the move, going 8-1 with Detroit after the trade deadline with a sparkling ERA under 2 and a WHIP under 1.
He was a 6’8” intimidating mound presence, who constantly fooled hitters with his vast array of pitches and great control. He didn’t throw as hard as you would expect, but he kept hitters off-balance with his off-speed pitches and a fastball that moved all over the place.
Surrounded by hard-throwing pitchers, Fister was the perfect change of pace for the Tiger rotation. He was a perfect fit.
But in 2013, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. Dave Dombrowski traded Fister to Washington. When it was first announced, it was not immediately known who the Tigers had acquired.
But names like Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard came to mind as Fister would certainly bring one of the Nationals’ top relievers. He would command that type of player in return, right? The Tigers bullpen needed upgrading (imagine that) and it only made sense that if we were going to trade Fister, it would be in exchange for a dominant reliever.
Sorry! The Tigers received 3 players in the deal; a utility infielder by the name of Steve Lombardozzi, minor league pitcher Robbie Ray and lefty reliever Ian Krol. That’s it. They received far less than anyone could have imagined.
Dombrowski immediately touted Robbie Ray as the key acquisition in the deal and according to Dave; the Nationals did not want to include him in the deal. Ray was regarded as a gifted pitcher who would be in the Tiger rotation within a few years.
Tiger fans were enraged and this trade still ranks near the top of the list of the worst the team has ever made.
So, how do Tiger fans feel now as they look back on the trade? Well they may feel just a little worse.
In the spring of 2014, the Tigers got the awful news that newly acquired Jose Iglesias would be lost for the season. Steve Lombardozzi was immediately traded away for Alex Gonzalez, a veteran journeyman shortstop to help fill the void left by Iggy’s injury.
Gonzalez, who should have been retired, was let go so he could. It didn’t take the Tigers long to find out he had nothing left. Lombardozzi, the first Fister pillar to depart, didn’t stay long enough for fans to figure out how to spell his name and he was traded for someone who left within a month.
The second pillar, Robbie Ray, bounced back and forth between Detroit and Toledo, having only occasional success, but he definitely had talent. You could see he could indeed be someone who had a future with the Tigers. But the Tigers inexplicably traded him on 12/4/14 as part of a 3-team deal that brought them Shane Greene from the Yankees.
The Tigers were in scramble mode as their vaunted starting rotation was eroding. Gone were Fister and Scherzer (and later Rick Porcello), so the Tigers needed starters they could add to their rotation immediately. And Shane Greene was the guy. As a result, Robbie Ray, the second pillar, had fallen.
That only left Ian Krol. He had a great arm but never really made an impact in the major leagues with the Tigers as he bounced back and forth from the minors.
This all brings us to today. This past week, the Tigers, with a shopping list that includes lots of pitching and some outfield help had an opportunity to bring back Cameron Maybin, who was a major piece in the deal that brought Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers.
So who did the Tigers give up in the deal for Maybin? That’s right, Ian Krol was sent to Atlanta. The final pillar had fallen.
Doug Fister has been gone 3 seasons and within 3 years, the Tigers traded away everyone they received in return. Everyone.
The irony of it all is that when the Tigers acquired him from Seattle in 2011, he was brought in to bolster the rotation.
So here we are again with a rotation looking for a boost again, and they have strategically made moves so far this off-season to preserve as much money as possible to supplement their rotation through the free agent market. And lo and behold, guess who is available? Doug Fister.
Could this all come full circle? Could the Tigers really acquire Fister one more time? Well, given their needs and their budget, it doesn’t strike me as a terrible idea. It would almost be sweet justice to have Fister return and finally put to bed all the rage created by his departure.
We know one thing for sure. Dave Dombrowski doesn’t want him.