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washington nationals logoThis offseason is seriously going to be full of exciting trades, isn’t it?

According to Chris Cotillo, and later confirmed by Ken Rosenthal (does someone have a job offer lined up for Cotillo yet?), the Washington Nationals have picked up their front-end arm in the form of Doug Fister, coming over from the Detroit Tigers. The return is not yet known, but it’s going to be steep.

The Nationals have been in the market for a big-time arm for a while now, and the Tigers have been looking to trade an arm, but I don’t think anyone saw this particular trade coming. Fister, 29, is under control for two more seasons, and has been fantastic since coming to the Tigers back in 2011, by way of the Mariners (WAR the last three years: 5.2, 3.5, 4.6 – dude is legit). The Tigers were instead believed to be shopping Rick Porcello, or, to a lesser extent, Max Scherzer (who is a free agent after 2014).

The implications here are manyfold, and they mostly relate to Jeff Samardzija. First – and not related to Samardzija – the Nationals are out of the market for another arm, meaning they won’t be signing any free agent starters. Second – and related to Samardzija – the Nationals are out of the market for another arm, meaning they won’t be trading for Samardzija.

Getting to a more nuanced level, the impact to the Samardzija market is interesting here. On the one hand, the Cubs lose the Nationals as a possibility (if they’re looking to trade Samardzija, that is), and there was a plausible connection there. On the other hand, Porcello and Scherzer are now off of the market, meaning that the competition has decreased. I’m thinking this is a net positive for the Samardzija market.

Once we learn the return in the deal, the impact on a Samardzija trade could be even more significant here, given the parallels in Fister’s and Samardzija’s value (big righties with two years of control and great peripherals – though Samardzija is a year younger). So, I suppose when I said the return “is going to be steep,” I meant to say: “Let’s hope it’s steep.”

UPDATE (7:25pm): Early indications suggest an extremely, shockingly weak package. So I’m not even going to share them, because there’s no way the return is this small. *inserts fingers in ears, closes eyes*

UPDATE 2 (7:33pm): With the Nationals announcing the trade, I’ve got to open my eyes and unplug the ears. It’s Fister for meh utility infielder Steve Lombardozzi, decent young reliever Ian Krol, and organizational top ten pitching prospect Robbie Ray. That’s it. I am without speech. There should have been 28 – literally 28 – other teams lining up to blow that offer out of the water. Is there something wrong with Fister that we’re not aware of? If not, the expected return in any Samardzija deal just took a considerable dive. Fister is arguably better than Samardzija, and he just netted the Tigers a worse package than the Cubs got for two months of Matt Garza.

UPDATE 3 (8:44pm): This is going to vex my entire night. I’m trying to contextualize this package in Cubs terms. It’s not a perfect overlay, but something like Junior Lake, Justin Grimm, and Kyle Hendricks. That’s the range you’re looking at for that Nationals package, which got them two years of a cost-controlled starter who put up the 9th highest WAR total for starting pitchers *in all of baseball* over the past three years. I can’t recall a worse trade in recent memory. Here’s hoping that it’s so bad – and perceived by everyone to be so bad – that it has no impact on the trade value of Samardzija. Not because I want the Cubs to trade him, mind you. But I’d like them to have options that look a hell of a lot better than that Nats package.

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