Since then, the Nats have made one trade, grabbing Doug Fister from the Tigers in exchange for pitching prospect Robbie Ray, reliever Ian Krol and infielder Steve Lombardozzi.
Ray was 15th in my November rankings. Krol and Lombardozzi were not ranked. Despite the bizarre outpouring of affection from some parts of Nats Land for Lombo, Ray was the centerpiece of the trade from the Tigers perspective. Detroit GM Dave Dombrowki responded to criticism of the trade by saying that the team targeted 15 young pitchers league-wide, and Ray was the only one available.
It should be noted that Ray was the fourth young Nats pitcher on my list, behind Lucas Giolito, A.J. Cole, and Taylor Jordan. In fact, allegedly the Tigers first targeted Jordan before the Nats refused to trade him. If Robbie Ray is a top 15 young pitcher in baseball, and fourth on the Nats, did the Nationals have four of the top 15 young pitchers in baseball?
Krol has some value as a young lefty reliever. Lombardozzi has even less value as a young versatile infielder with major league experience. But the Tigers still make this trade without Krol and Lombardozzi. They don’t make it without Ray.
Now that he’s a member of the team, where does Doug Fister rank in a re-ranking of Nats by trade value?
It is tempting to simply put him 15th. He was traded, more of less, for Ray. The Nationals refused to trade Taylor Jordan, who ranked, appropriately, 14th.
However, it is almost universally agreed upon that that Mike Rizzo underpaid for Fister. Despite Dombrowski’s defense of his trade, Ray is viewed throughout baseball as a mid-tier prospect. A pitcher with Fister’s production (~7 WAR in ’12-’13) and arbitration time remaining (2 years) should fetch a top prospect or a package of mid-tier prospects. James Shields–a better pitcher but not by as much as you might think–netted the best prospect in baseball and two other mid-tier prospects in 2012.
My top five Nats by trade value in November were:
1. Bryce Harper
2. Ian Desmond
3. Stephen Strasburg
4. Gio Gonzalez
5. Jordan Zimmerman
That remains unchanged. These five are franchise cornerstones.
The next seven were:
6. Lucas Giolito
7. Anthony Rendon
8. Ryan Zimmerman
9. Jayson Werth
10. AJ Cole
11. Brian Goodwin
12. Denard Span
Fister falls somewhere in here, as he’s certainly more valuable than Span and probably also Cole and Goodwin. It is hard to imagine a pitcher of Fister’s quality being traded straight-up for a prospect like Cole or Goodwin.
Fister probably ranks behind Lucas Giolito, who might be an untouchable prospect. Its possible Giolito’s value has risen since November as some scouts have speculated he’s the most talented pitcher in the minor leagues right now.
Rendon, too, is probably untouchable as an infielder with power potential and six full years of club control remaining.
Zimmerman and Werth are difficult to pinpoint because they are attached to large contracts. Zimmerman has question marks about his long-term defensive viability at third base. As a first baseman, Zimmerman’s $100 million contract–which starts this year–is of less value to the team. Werth, despite his great 2013 has $80 million remaining on his contract and is entering his full decline years at the age of 34.
Fister’s value, I believe falls somewhere between Werth and Zimmerman. There is no scientific analysis here, just a gut feeling. Zimmerman is in his prime, and he has several more good years at third base. Zimmerman is locked up long term at an annual average value that looks, thanks to free agent salary inflation, far more reasonable than it used to.
This is not a knock on Werth, just a realization that many teams would be scared away by the back end of his contract.
Here is my new Top 10:
5. J. Zimmermann
8. R. Zimmerman
Of course, this is all subjective and subject to change without notice.