The GM's Office: Doug Fister

5 moves that got Tigers to World Series

October, 22, 2012
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Justin VerlanderMark Cunningham/Getty ImagesDrafting Justin Verlander in 2004 served as the bedrock move for this year's AL Central champs.


Getting to the World Series is difficult and requires not only shrewd personnel decisions but also a little luck. For the Detroit Tigers, their moves have culminated in back-to-back AL Central Division titles and their first appearance in the Fall Classic since 2006.

Let’s take a look at the five pivotal moves made by Detroit Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and their front-office staff that got the Tigers to where they are today.

1. Drafting RHP Justin Verlander


A room full of Tigers scouts sighed with relief when the San Diego Padres selected Mission Bay (Calif.) H.S. shortstop Matt Bush with the first overall pick in the 2004 draft, as that allowed Detroit to take Old Dominion flamethrower Justin Verlander with No. 2 pick.

The Tigers’ leadership, led by Dombrowski, had previously worked for the Marlins, and they felt they were able to accomplish the same thing when they took Josh Beckett with the second overall pick in 1999. To build a championship-caliber team, you have to start with an ace -- and that’s exactly what the Tigers accomplished with Verlander, who is both a Cy Young Award winner and an AL MVP.

2. Acquiring 3B Miguel Cabrera


The Tigers shocked the baseball world in December 2007 when they were able to get one of the game’s best bats, Cabrera, along with Dontrelle Willis for a package of five prospects, including overrated former first-round selections Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, among others. None of the five prospects is still with the Marlins, and only Maybin has made any sort of impact at the major league level. Cabrera has hit .323/.401/.579 with an average of 37 homers per year since coming to Detroit. It was one of the most lopsided trades in generations.

3. Acquiring RHP Max Scherzer, OF Austin Jackson, LHP Phil Coke


The game’s biggest three-team trade in the last decade was orchestrated by Dombrowski, as he entertained everyone at the 2009 winter meetings in Indianapolis. By dealing the team’s most popular player, Curtis Granderson, to the New York Yankees, and right-handed starter Edwin Jackson to the Diamondbacks, the Tigers got Coke and Jackson from the Yankees, as well as Scherzer and LHP Daniel Schlereth, while the Yankees got Granderson and shipped Ian Kennedy to the Diamondbacks.

The deal worked for all three teams and, interestingly, each club has enjoyed times when it has gotten the best of the trade. However, the real winner in this triangular transaction is the Tigers. Without this move, they’re not playing in the World Series. Jackson has developed into a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder who can run it down in the gaps while providing the Tigers with a legitimate leadoff hitter. Scherzer has become arguably their second-best starter behind Verlander, and Coke became their closer this postseason; his 0.00 ERA in the ALCS shut the door on the team that traded him -- the Yankees.


4. Acquiring 1B Prince Fielder



Tigers manager Jim Leyland was told last offseason the team didn’t have enough money to sign an additional bullpen arm that would have cost them approximately $1 million. A week later he was informed that Ilitch -- who made his money as founder of the Little Caesar's franchise -- had approved a nine-year, $214 million contract for Prince Fielder.

Of course, it was the injury to DH Victor Martinez that opened the door for the Fielder signing. Nonetheless, the signing sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Many teams weren’t willing to give more than five years, let alone nine. Owners throughout the game bristled at the contract. Without Fielder the Tigers are not in the World Series, and Little Caesars Pizza never tasted better.

Ilitch wants to a win a World Series so bad that he was willing to pull the trigger on this magnificent power-hitting first baseman who brought leadership, production and a winning attitude from Milwaukee. Fielder helped former teammate Ryan Braun win the NL MVP in 2011, and this year gave the same protection to Cabrera, who won the Triple Crown. And although a lot of risk remains for the latter three years of this contract, the investment was made so Ilitch could have the best possible chance to win a World Series. And he’s now just four wins away.

5. Acquiring Doug Fister


The Tigers made another lopsided trade just before the deadline in 2011, when they sent Charlie Furbush, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for Doug Fister and David Pauley. Fister was by far the best player in the deal and gave the Tigers the No. 3 starter they so desperately needed. His nasty sinker and ability to pound the strike zone and pitch in big games has made him incredibly valuable. Fister has gone 18-11 with a 2.95 ERA since joining the Tigers, with an impressive WHIP of 1.08.

Transaction of the Year: Angels ink Pujols

December, 29, 2011
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Albert Pujols Kirby Lee/US PresswireIn 2011, Pujols found greener pastures in a land bathed in Angels red, not Cardinals.

Albert Pujols’ name already is often mentioned among a trio of baseball legends – Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds. His prodigious career thus far has earned him that nod of respect, as well as a mammoth 10-year, $254 million contract in December from the Los Angeles Angels, which is justifiably the 2011 Transaction of the Year.

The speed with which the deal was completed, as well as the sheer financial numbers turned baseball’s annual winter meetings on its head. But there also was symmetry; Pujols left the only team he’s ever known, similar to Ruth, Aaron and Bonds. And as the sport’s best active player his departure was made all the more curious by St. Louis’ zeal to sign teammate Matt Holliday to an extension rather than Pujols. Despite his accolades and production Pujols never felt he got a full market value offer from the Cardinals. Likewise, the Pittsburgh Pirates knew Bonds would leave after the 1992 season, seemingly too expensive to re-sign.

To many, the historical significance of his deal was on par with Boston’s selling of Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees in 1919, if not equal to Bonds leaving for San Francisco or an aging Aaron traded from Atlanta. Indeed, there’s little doubt Pujols eventually will rank among that trio of home run hitters, so perhaps it was a move destined to happen.

Honorable mention:

1. Colby Rasmus traded to the Toronto Blue Jays
In a complex, three-team trade that involved 11 players, the Cardinals netted several players who were integral to their World Series championship run. On July 27, they sent former No. 1 pick Rasmus to Toronto, which had coveted the 24-year-old Rasmus for some time. Knowing that the departures of Pujols and manager Tony La Russa were distinct possibilities after the season, trading a talent like Rasmus was worth the risk to try and win now. Without role players such as Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Mark Rzepczynski, the Cardinals’ run might never have reached the heights that it eventually would.

2. Doug Fister traded to the Detroit Tigers
Tigers President/CEO and general manager Dave Dombrowski’s main intent in acquiring right-hander Doug Fister on July 30 from the Seattle Mariners was to improve his team’s fifth starter. Production from that slot in the first half of the season had proven disastrous. In Fister, however, they got a No. 3 starter. With Fister’s off-balance approach, the Tigers said good bye to the rest of the American League Central and said hello to the playoffs. Like the Cardinals, it is likely their postseason run would never have started without this trade.

3. Hunter Pence traded to the Philadelphia Phillies
The Houston Astros were selling, and the Phillies needed another right-handed bat. Pence had always been an above-average player, but after he arrived in Philadelphia on July 30, he completely changed the offense and became one of the team’s best players. Even more significant was the fact the Phillies did not surrender either No. 1 prospect Domonic Brown or emerging right-handed starter Vance Worley. Instead, the Phillies gave up a decent package including pitcher Jarred Cosart and first baseman Jonathan Singleton.

Deeper Yankees have edge at home 

October, 6, 2011
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Doug Fister/Ivan NovaGetty ImagesDoug Fister or Ivan Nova could decide who goes on to face the Rangers in the ALCS.

There are few things more exciting than an elimination game, which is what we have in the Bronx tonight. Here’s what I’m looking for in Game 5 of the ALDS between the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers:

• Rookie Ivan Nova put together the quietest 16-win season in recent memory. What is also fresh on the Tigers’ minds is the Yankees' 9-3 win in Game 1, in which Nova gave up just two runs on four hits and four walks, striking out five. Nova’s composure and demeanor will help him stay in control during this pressure-filled start. He’s figured it out, doesn’t pitch like a rookie and will run through the Tigers’ lineup two or three times before he comes out.

Fister and Pauley traded to Tigers 

July, 30, 2011
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The Philadelphia Phillies and San Francisco Giants rocked the baseball world with blockbuster deals this week for All-Star outfielders Hunter Pence and Carlos Beltran, respectively. Both deals should help those division-leading clubs in the postseason as much as they will in the regular season. In contrast, the Detroit Tigers’ six-player deal today with the Seattle Mariners was designed more for the 162-game regular-season pennant race than it was for a potential AL postseason matchup.

The Tigers did that in acquiring starting pitcher Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley from the Mariners in exchange for left-handed pitcher Charlie Furbush, minor league third baseman Francisco Martinez, minor league outfielder Casper Wells and another prospect to be named. The announcements were made by Tigers president and GM Dave Dombrowski and Mariners VP and GM Jack Zduriencik.

The Tigers needed to do something to bolster the pitching staff to give them their best chance of winning the division, and this move improves both the rotation and the bullpen. The Tigers’ fifth starters this year had a combined record of 4-16 and the acquisition of Fister should at least help them get closer to a .500 team at that spot in the rotation. The Tigers also called up top prospect Jacob Turner to make one start on Saturday with the intent of optioning him right back to Triple-A afterward. However, don’t be misled, it’s also an important audition for the Tigers’ best pitching prospect.

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