The Detroit Tigers traded right-hander Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals for three players Monday night, opening a spot in their rotation and perhaps saving some money to keep Max Scherzer beyond next season.
Detroit received infielder Steve Lombardozzi, minor league lefty Robbie Ray and reliever Ian Krol for Fister, a 14-game winner for the AL Central champions.
"We are excited to be adding three solid players to the organization," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. "Robbie is a premium pitching prospect, Ian adds a quality left-handed young arm for the bullpen and Steve provides our ballclub with versatility in several roles as a switch-hitting utility man.
"This affords us the opportunity to move the left-handed arm of Drew Smyly into the starting rotation where we are confident he will do well," the statement said.
It also might help the franchise afford to give Scherzer, the AL Cy Young Award winner, a new contract before he becomes a free agent following the 2014 season.
Detroit has had a busy offseason so far.
The Tigers traded first baseman Prince Fielder and his $214 million contract two weeks ago to the Texas Rangers in part to potentially save more than $75 million, giving them even more financial flexibility. They also allowed shortstop Jhonny Peralta to leave as a free agent for St. Louis.
Fister is going from one stacked rotation to another. He will likely replace Dan Haren in the rotation and join Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann and Gio Gonzalez.
The 29-year-old Fister was 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA last season and was 32-20 in two-plus seasons in Detroit, which acquired him in a trade from the Seattle Mariners. He struck out an American League-record nine batters in a row against the Kansas City Royals late in the 2012 season.
The 6-foot-8 Fister fared well in the postseason, even when he was hit in the head by a line drive. He shook off the scary moment in Game 2 of the 2012 World Series against San Francisco and took a shutout bid into the seventh inning in what ended up being a 2-0 loss to the Giants. Over three postseasons with the Tigers, he had a 2.98 ERA in seven starts and a relief appearance.
"We would like to thank Doug for everything he has done for the Tigers organization," Dombrowski said. "He is an exceptional player and individual and we wish him all the best going forward."
The 22-year-old Ray pitched was 6-3 with a 3.11 ERA for Class-A Potomac and was 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA for Double-A Harrisburg.
Krol made his major league debut in June for the Nationals after they acquired him from Oakland. The 22-year-old lefty was 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA in 32 games in Washington.
The 25-year-old Lombardozzi hit .259 with two homers and 22 RBIs in 118 games for the Nationals last season. The switch-hitting sparkplug played 48 games at second base, 23 in left field and four games at third base in 2013.
Washington went into the offseason hoping to add another starter it could count after having some uneven results from Haren last season and Edwin Jackson in 2012. Both of those right-handers were seen as short-term solutions and they ended up leaving as free agents after pitching for the Nationals for one season. Haren essentially replaced Jackson. Fister now essentially replaces Haren, who recently signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers after going 10-14 with a 4.67 ERA for Washington.