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The Tigers got what now?

Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski has an excellent reputation for winning trades. So why didn't he get more in return for Doug Fister?

Gregory Shamus

A lot of speculation of a corresponding move is floating around the internet after the Tigers traded Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for Steve Lombardozzi and minor leaguers Ian Krol and Robbie Ray. Tigers General Manager Dave Dombrowski had a surplus of well-compensated veterans to deal with this offseason. He started by trading Prince Fielder (and $30M) to the Texas Rangers for second baseman Ian Kinsler in a move that was well received by people around the game because of Fielder's waning performance and the payroll Dombrowski cleared in the deal. With the added flexibility from that trade, it appeared as though the Tigers would be able to lock up a few of their key contributors like Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, and maybe even Doug Fister.

Obviously, that is no longer an option.

Fister will join an already loaded Washington rotation on the Senior Circuit and Detroit will welcome Lombardozzi and Krol to the team for 2014. Robbie Ray will likely be considered the centerpiece of the trade for Detroit. He was recently ranked fifth in the Nats farm by Baseball America. Dombrowski sees him as a Major League contributor sooner rather than later.

All three of the players Detroit acquired could be valuable pieces in the future, and perhaps more importantly, they aren't going to be as expensive to hang on to as Fister would have been. He will be eligible the arbitration process again this offseason. Last year, he and the Tigers avoided the process by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4M. If the Nationals don't offer him a raise in a similar fashion this winter, Fister could earn significantly more thanks to the panel (MLB Trade Rumors' Matt Schwartz predicts Fister to earn $6.9M).

So was this trade a lower-level salary dump in the mold of the Fielder trade or something else entirely? What is Dombrowski up to?

Well, the team is probably not in on any of the available starters on the free agent and/or trade markets -- that's why they felt comfortable moving Fister, to get lefty Drew Smyly into the rotation with Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello, and Anibal Sanchez. They could use some serious help in the bullpen, though. Last season, Joaquin Benoit filled in admirably as the Tigers closer, but he's a free agent this offseason, and he didn't exactly have a lot of help relieving Detroit's sparkling rotation. Joe Nathan has often been rumored to be a target for the ninth inning. Other top closers on the market include Fernando Rodney and Grant Balfour.

While the bullpen appears to be one of Detroit's major concerns, some early speculation was centered around a few more earth-shaking suggestions:

The trade looks strange at this point and there's no way to tell what Dombrowski has up his sleeve, but at least one person close to the organization seems to think the Tigers will be okay: