Needless to say, veteran righty Doug Fister didn’t have the platform year he hoped for. He managed only a 4.64 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and an uncharacteristically high 3.1 BB/9 last year for the Astros. He also hasn’t quite maintained his once-excellent groundball induction rates. But he did turn in 32 starts, and provide 180 1/3 innings, after two straight seasons in which he faced some limitations. And he was also able to boost his velocity somewhat; though it still fell shy of his already-low career peak, at least Fister showed that he wasn’t set to fall off a cliff in the velo department.
All in all, the table seemed to be set for another pillow contract. After all, though he also produced uninspiring results in 2015, Fister landed in the top ten of the National League Cy Young voting in the season prior. From the start of his career in 2009, though that top-quality 2014 campaign, Fister had contribute nearly one thousand innings of 3.34 ERA pitching. The track record, in other words, still seems good enough to warrant a major league opportunity.
Still, business has been slow all winter for the 6’8 right-hander. There was chatter at times about teams with interest — the Marlins, Pirates, Mariners, Padres, and Royals all reportedly had some connection to Fister — though momentum never seemed to develop. AteR this point, it’s not even clear whether he has received any MLB offers, let alone whether there’d still be one available now, with camp well underway.
Unless there’s some unreported inkling of retirement, it still seems likely that Fister will land somewhere over the next few weeks. Perhaps he’s waiting to see whether a golden opportunity develops due to injury; perhaps he’s still hoping a team steps forward with an appealing guarantee.
Let’s see what the MLBTR readership thinks about how things will shake out. In lining up the best suitors for a poll, we’ll assume that Fister is looking for a clear rotation spot and we won’t guess at any new injuries. Here goes (in alphabetical order):
Padres — While the team has added several veteran hurlers already, and proceeded to sign Jered Weaver after the point of the reported interest in Fister, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a possible fit. If nothing else, it’d be interesting to see the club fill its staff out entirely with free agents signed to one year deals. At this point, the interest level likely comes down to whether the team has enough interest in giving a shot to an in-house option such as Christian Friedrich, Tyrell Jenkins, or Zach Lee.
Reds — Likewise, though Cincinnati is said to be finished giving out MLB deals, this rotation won’t be finished until the deadline for submitting Opening Day rosters … and will likely change quite a bit thereafter. There’s arguably greater uncertainty in the Reds’ staff than even the Padres’ at this stage, with pitchers such as Tim Adleman, Robert Stephenson, and a variety of other younger pitchers duking it out with grizzled veteran Bronson Arroyo to establish places in the pecking order. At least two spots seem up for grabs; if the Reds don’t feel comfortable with any of their internal possibilities, it’s easy to imagine a pivot to Fister.
Pirates — This seems fairly unlikely, but perhaps there’s some daylight still for the Bucs to take on their latest reclamation project. There’s probably a reason it hasn’t happened already, but Pittsburgh could perhaps still reconsider the options on hand. Drew Hutchison has hardly guranteed himself a roster spot based on his recent track record, and the organization’s series of promising youngsters — highlighted by Tyler Glasnow — might be deemed best kept at Triple-A to open the season.
Rangers — Similarly, it’s a bit of a strain to see the Rangers lining up with Fister at this point. The club already added Andrew Cashner and the recovering Tyson Ross to join A.J. Griffin in the mix at the back of the rotation. But Cashner has experienced biceps soreness while Griffin has struggled early in camp, and it’s not clear whether the team wants to rely too much on Dillon Gee (who had offseason surgery) or one of its unestablished youngsters. That leaves a bit of room to imagine something coming together on Fister, though perhaps the Rangers would first consider the familiar Colby Lewis.
Rockies — Colorado doesn’t seem inclined to pursue an alternative route, but the organization remains hard to predict from the outside. Fister could make a great deal of sense, if the Rox come to believe that none of their top young arms — primarily, Jeff Hoffman, but also German Marquez or Kyle Freeland — is prepared to be leaned upon for the span of the season. If that’s the case, and Jordan Lyles isn’t deemed an adequate fill-in, then perhaps the towering sinkerballer could make sense.
Yankees — The Yanks might make better sense than any other team in baseball, if the team has some added funds to spare. With two rotation spots up for grabs, the club is hardly in sure hands. Adam Warren is a veteran option, but hasn’t had much recent success, while Luis Severino has gobs of talent but struggled last year. Other options — Chad Green, Luis Cessa, and Bryan Mitchell — have hardly staked obvious claims to a starting gig. With that much uncertainty, bringing on an established veteran could add some stability while also deepening the overall unit entering the season.
It’s certainly possible to imagine other teams — say, the Tigers, White Sox, Angels, Twins, Athletics, Brewers, Phillies, or Red Sox — emerging with interest.But in each of those cases, I think, it would likely require an injury or a major change of heart on an internal option to lead to an agreement. Certainly, there would be others if Fister is willing to head to the pen to function as a swingman. So, that’s my list, but feel free to debate alternatives in the comments.
Where do you think Fister will end up? (Link for app users.)