Fister deal signals Tigers are in cost-cutting mode

The Nationals have added pitcher Doug Fister as the No. 4 starter to their rotation. And while the debate about whether or not they have the best rotation in the National League, there’s one question that remains:

How did they get one of the American League’s top pitchers for a utility infielder (Steve Lombardozzi), a lefty reliever (Ian Krol) and a low-level prospect (Robbie Ray)?

The answer is that the Tigers are in a cost-cutting mode. And even though they have one of the most generous owners in Mike Ilitch, it appears it is time for the Tigers to stop spending as if they have a limitless budget.

The Tigers saved roughly $7 million by trading Fister. Drew Smyly will take his place in the rotation. They traded first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers, saving them another $70 million or so.

It looks like they will use that money to retain pitcher Max Scherzer, the American League Cy Young Award winner, and Miguel Cabrera, who will move to first base and is eligible for free agency after 2015.

The money will also allow them to spend on a left fielder and find a reliable closer.

Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski is getting beat up in the national media for making the Fister deal, but don’t count him out. Dombrowski says he isn’t done, and that means it is too early to judge this as a bad trade for the Tigers.

Maybe the Nationals will sign Fister to a long-term contract, as they did when they acquired lefty Gio Gonzalez from Oakland a few years ago.

The Nationals rotation has Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, Gonzalez and Fister. The fifth spot in the rotation is covered with pitchers like Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan, Nathan Karns, Sammy Solis and Ross Detwiler.

The Nationals say they want to fix their left-handed situation in the bullpen, meaning that Detwiler, a lefty who emerged as a solid starter before injury hit in 2013, could be a candidate for the bullpen if GM Mike Rizzo doesn’t find another lefty reliever in the trade or free agent market.