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Nationals and Athletics grab pitchers

NEW YORK -- On a night usually dominated by news of Major League Baseball players let loose by their clubs, the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics filled pitching needs with trades.

Washington obtained right-hander Doug Fister from Detroit for infielder Steve Lombardozzi and left-handers Robbie Ray and Ian Krol on Monday, while Oakland acquired closer Jim Johnson from Baltimore for infielder Jemile Weeks and a player to be named.

Meanwhile, 43 MLB players became free agents when their teams failed to offer 2014 contracts before the deadline Monday night, a group that included 2009 National League Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis reliever John Axford.

Fister was 14-9 with a 3.67 ERA last season for the Tigers, the American League Central division champions, who last month traded slugging first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

“It gives us some flexibility for some other things we want to do,” Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said, insisting the trade wasn't made to free money for a long-term deal for AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who can leave the Tigers after next season.

Oakland, which also closed in on a US$22 million, two-year contract with left-hander Scott Kazmir, is revamping after losing to the Tigers in the AL division series.

Johnson led the MLB with 51 saves in 2012 and tied for the league lead last season with 50. The two-time AL West champion A's found their closer to replace All-Star Grant Balfour, who became a free agent after the season and is expected to command a multiyear deal.

Clubs often use the so-called tender deadline as leverage to force agreements with players they won't go to arbitration with. Among the players let loose were Toronto catcher J.P. Arencibia, Boston right-hander Andrew Bailey and outfielder Ryan Kalish, Mets right-hander Jeremy Hefner, Yankees infielder Jayson Nix, Tampa Bay outfielder Sam Fuld and Kansas City infielder Chris Getz.

The Los Angeles Angels gained nearly US$10 million of payroll flexibility, declining to offer contracts to pitchers Tommy Hanson, Jerome Williams and Juan Gutierrez, along with third baseman Chris Nelson.

With an excess of catching after reaching an agreement to sign Brian McCann, the Yankees traded Chris Stewart to Pittsburgh for a player to be named, and Stewart agreed to a US$1 million, one-year deal with the Pirates. The Yankees also finalized a US$5 million, two-year contract with shortstop Brendan Ryan, who became their starter in September when Derek Jeter went back on the disabled list.

Willie Bloomquist agreed to return to Seattle after spending his first seven MLB seasons with the Mariners and the past three with Arizona. He hit .317 for the Diamondbacks this year but had just 139 at-bats.

Catcher Dioner Navarro agreed to an US$8 million, two-year contract with Toronto, while another catcher, Jose Molina, agreed to a US$4.5 million, two-year contract to remain with Tampa Bay.

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