by Chris Lingebach

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – The Nationals may have shocked their fans overnight by swapping Steve Lomardozzi, Ian Krol and Robbie Ray with the Tigers for Doug Fister, but GM Mike Rizzo says it’s a deal he’s been working on for some time.

“I think Dave [Dombrowski ] and I started talking probably shortly before the General Managers meetings in Orlando,” Rizzo said of the winter meetings which began Nov. 11. “And continued to have a dialogue through the meetings, and it kind of got a little hotter and more focused in the last couple of days, and then it really got to specific names mid-afternoon/last night, and we finished the deal late last night.”

Rizzo is obviously excited to bring an innings eater like the 6-foot-8, 29-year-old Fister, who pitched 208 innings – while still maintaining a 1.308 WHIP – for Detroit in 2013.

“He’s a workhorse type of pitcher,” Rizzo said. “He’s going to log a lot of innings. He’s a sinker ball, slider type of guy who throws a lot of ground balls, doesn’t walk anybody and pitches a lot innings, controls the running game, can handle a bat as a hitter in this league, and is a terrific athlete, 6-foot-8, comes in at a very unique angle and has some really good stuff.”

Fister held hitters to a respectable .710 OPS, 26 of whom he forced to ground into double plays, while only walking 44 on balls throughout last season.

Rizzo would say it’s tough to part with guys like Krol, Lombo and Ray, particularly the previous two, who were both drafted by the Nationals (Lombo, 19th-round in 2008 & Ray, 12th-round in 2010) organization.

“These guys are really near and dear to us,” Rizzo said. “You sign them as babies and you develop them throughout the minor league system, and then they achieve their goal and perform in the Major Leagues, and then at times you have to package some up and move them to improve your ballclub.”

“Lombo and Ian Krol played well for us last year. They’re both young guys with great futures ahead,” he continued. “And Robbie Ray is a terrific prospect that will be a good pitcher in the Major Leagues for years to come, but you have to give to get and guys like Doug Fister, they’re not growing on trees. And a guy with this guy’s success and the way he has performed for a championship-caliber club is something that we thought that we needed to posses. And it gives us a strong rotation and guy that can go deep into ballgames.

Ray hadn’t yet made an appearance at the big league level, but the hard-throwing lefty threw 160 strikeouts between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg in 2013.

Although Rizzo would allude to having more items on his shopping list, he was predictably tight-lipped whenever asked to hint at an area of the lineup he was still looking to improve.

“We don’t like to negotiate in the media or make trades in the media, if you will,” Rizzo declared. “We think the quiet approach is better and it allows me to do my job more efficiently and to make moves that sometimes you wouldn’t make if it was publicized.”

That goes for any conversations the organization may have had about mega-free agent Robinson Cano, too.

“Well, we’re certainly not going to discuss what we’re talking about but Robbie Cano is a terrific player,” he said. “He’s a free agent in the open market. And we feel we that we’ve got second base solidified. We’ve got Anthony Rendon over there and Danny Espinosa, and a bunch of good prospects in the minor leagues that could fill that position.”

Rizzo did admit however that he’d be willing to improve the team’s bench, the production of which he acknowledged fell off from it’s historic 2012 level.

Adam Kilgore recently made a compelling point/counterpoint in the Washington Post emphasizing why it could be wise for the Nats to go after Cano, despite the 9 years and $252 million the 31-year-old may command in the open market.

While Rizzo didn’t sound enthused about the idea of bidding on Cano, as he suggested above, he’s not likely to readily admit on the radio for all to hear if he is (or is not) interested in the second baseman.

And for what it’s worth, the organization’s Dec. 2010 announcement of its landmark seven-year, $126 million Jayson Werth singing came out of absolutely nowhere.


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