Rizzo And Williams On The Nationals' Arbitration Cases With Doug Fister, Tyler Clippard

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Nationals haven't gone to arbitration with a player since they won their case against John Lannan before the 2012 season and as the Nats' skipper and GM said in the last week, they would always prefer to avoid taking players "into the room."

The fact that 29-going-on-30-year-old starter Doug Fister was under team control and likely to be relatively cheap for the next two seasons was a selling point when the Washington Nationals identified the right-hander as a trade target this winter as Nats' GM Mike Rizzo told reporters after the deal that sent 25-year-old infielder Steve Lombardozzi and 22-year-old lefties Ian Krol and Robbie Ray to Detroit in return for the Tigers' starter.

"We certainly don't like taking people into the room and if we can avoid that with a deal that makes sense for both guys I would certainly love to do it." - Mike Rizzo on avoiding arbitration if possible on the MLB Network

"'We like the entire package with him,'" Rizzo told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Dan Kolko. "'We also liked that he had multiple years of control and [is] a guy that we think can grow with the Nationals.'"

Fister avoided arbitration with the Tigers last winter when he signed a 1-year/$4M deal with Detroit. In his fifth major league season, the 6'8'' starter was (14-9) with a 3.67 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 44 walks (1.90 BB/9) and 159 Ks (6.86 K/9) in 33 games, 32 starts and 208 2/3 IP over which he was worth +4.6 fWAR. In 121 starts in his career, Fister has a 3.53 ERA, a 3.44 FIP, 1.81 BB/9 and 6.28 K/9 in 818 2/3 IP.

When the Nationals and their newly-acquired starter couldn't agree on a contract for 2014 before last Friday's deadline to do so, they had to exchange figures. Fister asked for $8.5M. The Nats offered $5.75M.

MLBTraderumors.com's 2014 Arbitration projections had the righty getting $6.9M. If they don't agree on a deal, they'll go to arbitration at some point between February 1st and 21st. Fister isn't the only National who still hasn't signed a contract for 2014 yet.

Tyler Clippard, coming off a +0.4 fWAR campaign in 2013 which saw the soon-to-turn 29-year-old right-hander post a 2.41 ERA and a 3.82 FIP over 71 IP in which walked 24 (3.04 BB/9) and K'd 73 (9.25 K/9), asked for $6.35M while the Nationals offered the seven-year veteran $4.45M, a $450K raise over the $4M he made last season.

MLBTraderumors.com's projections had Clippard getting $6.2M.

Fister and Clippard are the only two of the Nationals' ten arbitration-eligible players who remain unsigned. New Nats' skipper Matt Williams told 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier after the signings last week that avoiding arbitration with your players is always preferable. Nationals' GM Mike Rizzo was asked by the MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal this week how he reacted to the wide gap between the offers and asks with Fister and Clippard.


"We had a pretty good strategy with our filing numbers, as did they," Rizzo said. "You're talking about two players that are extremely important to us coming into [2014] and beyond. Clippard has exemplified what those eighth inning relievers are all about. He's as good as anybody in the business. And Fister, who's had an exemplary career in the other league, we feel has big things ahead of him. We certainly don't like taking people into the room and if we can avoid that with a deal that makes sense for both guys I would certainly love to do it."

"But this is a process that has been collectively bargained," Rizzo explained, "and that we have to look into. But, again, we don't like going to arbitration cases, but we have in the past and if it makes sense for us to settle, we'd certainly like to."

If Clippard or Fister go to arbitration, they will be the first Nationals to do so since John Lannan in 2012, and the players will have a chance to get within two games of the organization, which currently has a 6-2 record in arbitration cases going back to 2005 when the franchise relocated to the nation's capital.

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