You must have heard by now that the Detroit Tigers acquired 2012 Cy Young Award Winner David Price in a three-team trade with the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays a mere hour before the trade deadline past. Some believe the acquisition was in response to the Oakland Athletics’ bold move which saw Jon Lester heading out west. There’s a lot of truth behind that, however, an aura of irony clouds this trade.
The Tigers didn’t need Price to win the mediocre American League Central or to flourish in the crapshoot known as the playoffs. That said, it certainly doesn’t hurt the Tigers. They’re clearly tired of falling just short in the postseason, and having a playoff rotation composed of Max Scherzer, Price, Anibal Sanchez, and Justin Verlander is downright scary. Yet I wonder — actually I know — Detroit would have been much better if they just held onto Doug Fister in the offseason. This may sound trite at this point, but it’s worth looking at the ramifications of such a head-scratching decision.
Detroit wouldn’t have had to trade their once All-Star center fielder Austin Jackson or sacrifice young and talented pitcher Drew Smyly midseason. Their bullpen could have been richer and their bench depth, too. Now, they must count on J.D. Martinez and his unsustainable .375 BABIP to occupy left field the rest of the way
Further, Fister makes half what Price is making this year, and probably next year, as well. The capital saved from sticking with Fister for essentially the same production as Price would have allowed the Tigers to improve elsewhere on their team. Also, they could have made Scherzer, who’s a free agent at year’s end, a more competitive offer.
Sure, Price is the better pitcher of the two, and that’s evidently backed up with the statistics below.
2011: 216 and 1/3 innings pitched, 2.83 ERA, 3.02 FIP, and 5.2 fWAR
2012: 161 and 2/3 innings pitched, 3.45 ERA, 3.42 FIP, and 3.5 fWAR
2013: 208 and 2/3 innings pitched, 3.67 ERA, 3.26 FIP, and 4.6 fWAR
2014: 97 and 1/3 innings pitched, 2.68 ERA, 3.91 FIP, and 0.8 fWAR
2011: 224 and 1/3 innings pitched, 3.49 ERA, 3.32 FIP, and 3.9 fWAR
2012: 211 innings pitched, 2.56 ERA, 3.05 FIP, and 4.7 fWAR
2013: 186 and 2/3 innings pitched, 3.33 ERA, 3.03 FIP, and 4.3 fWAR
2014: 170 and 2/3 innings pitched, 3.11 ERA, 2.93 FIP, and 3.8 fWAR
However, it’s a lot closer than the majority of people would think. Both guys have been good for a long time, but one costs half as much. It would have been better for the team had Dave Dombrowski just held onto his underrated commodity, Doug Fister, instead. On paper, Detroit’s rotation might be the best it’s ever been, yet with Fister, their team would have been in a better position to go win the elusive World Series.