What an insane week this has already been in Major League Baseball. And we’re only through Tuesday.
The following deals all went down in the last two days (terms are according to various media reports):
Jacoby Ellsbury turned in his Red Sox for some pinstripes, agreeing to a seven-year, $153 million deal with the Yankees. The Red Sox signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a one-year, $8.25 million deal. The Rockies inked first baseman Justin Morneau to a two-year deal worth around $13 million. Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed a three-year, $21 million deal with the Marlins.
The Diamondbacks, Rays and Reds completed a trade that shipped catcher Ryan Hanigan and reliever Heath Bell to Tampa Bay. The Astros acquired center fielder Dexter Fowler in a trade with the Rockies. The Athletics made three trades, sending outfielder Seth Smith to the Padres for reliever Luke Gregerson, acquiring outfielder Craig Gentry and right-hander Josh Lindblom from the Rangers and adding closer Jim Johnson in a trade with the Orioles. The Tigers signed Joe Nathan to a two-year deal worth around $20 million. The Blue Jays signed catcher Dioner Navarro to a two-year deal worth $8 million. Oh, yeah, and the Nationals acquired Doug Fister in a four-player trade with the Tigers.
(This isn’t including the Carlos Beltran deal with the Royals or the Kelly Johnson deal with the Yankees, both of which are reportedly close to completion.)
Do we even need to hold the Winter Meetings at this point? Are there going to be any free agents left for teams to sign once everyone convenes down in Orlando this upcoming Monday? Will any teams have holes left on their rosters that require any more wheeling and dealing?
Sure doesn’t seem like it.
Someone asked me last night what my initial impression was of Fister after taking part in yesterday’s conference call with the Nationals’ new starter. I’ll tell you all what I told him - Fister seemed like a conscientious guy who understands the nature of the business and is excited to get to work with his new team.
Take his response to a question about his ability to hold baserunners, something that really jumps out at you when you notice he’s allowed just 16 stolen bases over his five big league seasons.
“That is definitely a focal point, especially in bullpen sessions and spring training,” Fister said. “If I can work on things, work on timing, work on the mixing up of my delivery to where I can make it a second-nature type feeling that I don’t have to think about during the season, that’s my goal. I want to be able to control the running game and help the catcher out as much as possible. Obviously, there’s still fast guys that want to take a chance and obviously there were stolen bases last year, but I want to limit it as much as possible. I want to give our team the best chance to win as possible and that’s one little thing that can turn into a big thing.”
Pitching coach Steve McCatty and bench coach Randy Knorr (who handles the catchers and the running game) will love this guy, especially given how much of a struggle it’s been getting some of the other pitchers on the staff to focus on holding runners in recent seasons.
OK, so we know that Fister appreciates the art of holding baserunners. Then there’s hitting, something that many starters don’t take all that seriously and something that Fister will now need to spend some of his time focusing on after spending his entire big league career in the American League.
“It’s one of those things that I don’t take for granted or I don’t take lightly,” Fister said. “It’s part of the job now. It’s definitely been part of the job when we’re in interleague. So it’s something I want to be proficient at. I want to make sure I get my bunts down. I want to make sure I can move a runner when I need to and to put it in play. I’m taking it very seriously.”
For the record, Fister has a career .267 batting average (4-for-15) with two RBIs in interleague play.
Fister might have been disappointed to learn that he’d be leaving Detroit, a place where he’d competed in a World Series and built relationships with teammates and Tigers staffers. But he also sounded like a guy who was able to accept the trade as something that comes with the territory in this game.
“I’m not taking it lightly by any means,” Fister said. “I’m excited for it, but I’m trying to take it with a level head and to really just kind of focus on getting ready this year, in Viera for spring and be able to get ready for Washington. Just like when I pitch, I try to stay on an even keel and to really just keep things as even as possible. So not trying to get too high, too low, too excited, too anything. So I’m just trying to take it in stride, one step at a time.”
Sounds like the type of attitude you want from a starting pitcher, doesn’t it?