- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
A primary reason rival officials have scrutinized the Detroit Tigers for the Doug Fister trade is the context of the deal. This is a time when any team looking for starting pitcher has very few attractive options; whether it’s offering tens of millions and giving up a draft pick to sign Ervin Santana or Ubaldo Jimenez; trading an army of prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays for David Price and then committing many, many millions of dollars to sign the left-hander; or picking from the B-list of starting pitchers, like Phil Hughes, who got $24 million over three years, or Scott Kazmir, who got $22 million for two years.
Fister has been among the most effective pitchers in the game over the last three seasons -- his WAR for 2011-13 was 13.3, or about the same as Price’s 13.5 -- and the only real financial obligation to him is the $7 million or so he could make through arbitration in 2014.
Considering all that, evaluators say, you could argue that there could have been a bidding war for Fister that would net a better prospect than the Nationals’ Robbie Ray, who is regarded as a good but not great prospect by a lot of other teams.
"There are a lot of teams looking for starting pitching right now," said a GM.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski -- highly respected within the industry -- counters that, by saying the team did its homework before the Fister trade.
It’s context, and within the current context, the current market prices, here are other available players who might look more attractive than a month ago.
1. Joaquin Benoit, RHP, free agent
He has mixed results as the Tigers’ closer, with no blowup more noteworthy than the grand slam he surrendered to David Ortiz in the postseason, and Detroit signed Joe Nathan for $20 million over two years to replace him. But evaluators say a few bad moments shouldn’t obscure the fact that Benoit is a pretty good relief pitcher who allowed just 69 hits and walks in 67 innings last season.