The Nationals have swapped right-handed relievers with the Tigers, sending Collin Balester to the Tigers for Ryan Perry.
The impetus of the trade, from the Nationals' perspective, might be the roster flexibility it will provide. Balester will be out of options in 2012 and thus can't be sent to the minors without first passing through waivers. Perry, meanwhile, has one option year remaining, allowing the Nationals to retain his rights even if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster.
Perry, 24, owns a 4.07 ERA in 149 appearances over the last three seasons with Detroit, but he's had trouble sticking in the big leagues because of consistency issues. Drafted by the Tigers only three years ago as the 21st overall pick, Perry reached the majors after only one minor-league season and only eight appearances at Class AAA.
With a fastball that averaged 94.1 mph this season, Perry will have a shot to make the Nationals' bullpen out of spring training as a middle reliever. There won't be many open slots, however, with Drew Storen, Tyler Clippard, Sean Burnett and Henry Rodriguez all guaranteed jobs and Ryan Mattheus a frontrunner to earn another.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland summed up Perry's consistency issues earlier this week at the Winter Meetings.
"He throws one of the best sliders you've ever seen, and then the next one is not a good one," Leyland told Detroit beat writers. "He comes in some nights and throws that fastball 96 mph and locates it pretty good, and other nights you wouldn't think it's the same guy."
Balester, 25, likewise struggled to maintain a level of consistency over the last four seasons in Washington. He posted a 5.17 ERA in 62 games, the first 22 of them as a starter before transitioning to the bullpen in 2010.
One of the few former Expos farmhands still in the Nationals organization, Balester was originally a fourth-round pick in the 2004 draft. The only remaining Expos players still with the Nats: Ian Desmond, Roger Bernadina, Atahualpa Severino and Seth Bynum.
This promises to be quite an eventful week for Balester. Not only has he been traded, but his wife is due to give birth to the couple's first child any day now.