The A’s have acquired right-hander Mike Fiers from the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations or two players to be named later, the team has announced (Twitter link). Left-hander Jeremy Bleich has been designated for assignment to create room for Fiers on Oakland’s roster.
Fiers drew attention from multiple clubs prior to the trade deadline, with the Athletics reportedly making a strong bid to land the 33-year-old on deadline day itself. Less than a week later, the A’s finally landed the righty to help reinforce its injury-plagued starting staff, with Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reporting that Oakland put a claim on Fiers while he was on revocable trade waivers.
After being non-tendered by the Astros last winter, Fiers signed a one-year, $6MM deal with the Tigers and did a solid job of rebuilding his stock after a rough 2017 season. Fiers posted a 3.48 ERA, 6.58 K/9, and 3.35 K/BB rate over 119 innings (21 starts) for Detroit, and has been particularly effective after a slow start to the season, as Fiers has a 2.57 ERA over his last 70 frames.
There are some red flags about his performance, however, most notably the career-low (over a full season) strikeout rate and swinging strike rate (8.3 %). Fiers is getting away with allowing some hard contact, as evidenced by the gap between his .321 wOBA and his .345 xwOBA, and he has also benefited from an 83.1% strand rate and a .277 BABIP. Advanced metrics such as FIP (4.66), xFIP (4.82) and SIERA (4.54) all sit over a run higher than his real-world ERA.
Even if a bit of regression is in order, Fiers will likely still represent an upgrade for an A’s rotation that has posted middling numbers over the course of the season (though they have been dominant as of late). Fiers joins ace Sean Manaea and veterans Brett Anderson, Edwin Jackson, and Trevor Cahill in the Athletics’ starting five, and Fiers is also an option for the 2019 staff, as he is controlled via salary arbitration. It’s worth noting that Fiers left his last start after just two innings after being hit in the shin with a line drive, though the injury isn’t thought to be particularly serious, and obviously the A’s weren’t concerned enough to hold off on making the trade.
As per Slusser, the Tigers have the option of taking money back for Fiers, or selecting two names from a list of prospects. It’s safe to assume that none of Oakland’s top minor leaguers are on that list, though Detroit should still get some kind of decent return on their $6MM investment in Fiers in the offseason.
Bleich made his Major League debut this season, appearing in two games for the A’s though getting through just one-third of an inning. A supplemental first-round pick (44th overall) for the Yankees in the 2008 draft, Bleich has pitched for five different organizations over 10 professional seasons and he also played for Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Bleich has a 3.92 ERA, 7.2 K/9, and 2.06 K/BB rate over 601 1/3 career minor league innings.
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