On Sunday afternoon, the Texas Rangers kicked off their campaign to revamp their rotation by agreeing to terms with starter Doug Fister. Evan Drellich of NBC Sports Boston first reported that 33-year old right-handed pitcher Doug Fister had signed with Texas on a one-year deal with a team option for the 2019 season.
Fister is coming off of a half-season with the Boston Red Sox and has playoff experience with Detroit (2011-2013) and Washington (2014) as well as with Boston last season. The deal is pending a physical and will be a major league deal with the purpose of filling one of the slots of the three open rotation spots on the Rangers’ Major League staff.
Fister had a bit of a resurgence year with Boston during the summer months of the 2017 season. The primary numbers won’t display that, as the righty put up a 5-9 record with a 4.68 ERA over just 18 games (15 starts). The periphery stats, however, are much more encouraging, as Fister’s numbers decreased from his last season in Washington and year with the Astros.
His FIP went down to 3.98, WHIP was down to 1.384, his Hits per 9 dropped a full number to 8.7, and his homers per 9 dropped to under one. His walks per 9 went up slightly, to 3.8, but his strikeouts per nine and strikeout to walk ratio increased drastically, from 5.7 and 1.85 in Houston to 8.3 and 2.18 respectively.
Texas faced going into 2018 with only Cole Hamels and Martin Perez as guaranteed Major League starters. Bringing in Doug Fister isn’t going to move earth, but it’s a strong first move to set the bar for where depth begins.
Baseball Reference has Fister projected to go 7-9 with a 4.73 ERA over 118 innings, which equates to roughly 17-20 starts. For a projected No. 5 starter, those numbers are right where you need them.
Sure, it would be nice to get the 2014 version of the sinker-ball pitcher, the 16-6, 2.41 ERA starter for the Nationals, but coming towards the tail end of his career, the strong showing with Boston was the best possible thing Fister could have done for himself to earn this Major League deal.
Fister was unable to find a major league deal last winter and signed a minor league deal with Los Angeles at the beginning of 2017 before he was claimed off of waivers by Boston in June. His tenure in Boston was up and down, having a great stretch of starts from the end of July to the end of the year, with a three starts of five and six runs mixed in with some solid outings.
Fister, who will turn 34-year old in February, isn’t limited to rotation duty either. While the results weren’t great, Fister can come out of the bullpen – which is why having him set the bar for a fifth starter and the depth behind it is so important.
At his peak, with Detroit and Washington, Fister relied on a high-80s/low-90s sinker, with a curve, slider and split mixed in. With Boston, according to Brooks Baseball, Fister abandoned the slider, relying far more on a mid-80s cutter to supplement his repertoire.
One of the key takeaways from his short stint in Boston was his regained sinker velocity. From 2014-2016, Fister’s sinker sat in the mid-to-high 80s. According to Drellich’s article, a move to the first base side of the rubber, thanks to the Red Sox pitching staff, helped reduce some of the physical toll from throwing and resulted in his increased velocity and sinker effectiveness.
The price tag for Fister is quite reasonable with a baseline of $3.5 million and $500,000 in incentives, as well as a potential $4.5 million team option for 2019, or a $500,000 buyout (h/t @ChrisCotillo).
The 2019 option also contains incentives that can bring the deal to $7 million. If those incentives, likely innings/starts and awards related, are able to kick in, it means Fister’s had a fantastic year. If they don’t, then Texas spent $3.5 million, which is less than what was given to Tyson Ross last year, Colby Lewis the year before, and just what they could pay for Shohei Ohtani’s first two years.
In other words, while the rest of the world waits on all papers to be turned in to Shohei Ohtani’s agents, and while baseball waits to see if trade speculation means anything if Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t want to leave Miami, before the Winter Meetings take place in Orlando in December, Jon Daniels has picked up an extremely low-cost, high-upside pitcher with lots of experience and a bulldog reputation.
How do you feel about the Rangers signing Doug Fister to add to their rotation? Share your thoughts with Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.