Free agent starter Mike Fiers is being courted by multiple clubs, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter). Among those with interest are the Reds, Giants, Rangers and Nationals, none of whom should surprise given their collective desire for more pitching. Fiers, 33, had his best year as a pro in 2018, working to a 12-8 record with a 3.56 ERA across 30 starts for Detroit and Oakland. His peripherals don’t scream drastic transformation, though he did lower his walk rate to a career-low 1.94 BB/9. He also threw more sliders, a pitch he has steadily worked into his repertoire since 2015, which could signal sustainability for Fiers’ 2018 success. Park factors for Comerica Park and the Oakland Coliseum definitely worked in his favor, so it’s fair to wonder how his stuff will fare in the bandboxes of Cincinnati, Texas, and Washington, especially considering increased use of his slider corresponded with a similar decrease in sinker usage, leading to elevated launch angles and more flyballs (43.2 FB%). Fiers has been homer prone in the past, though it’s a delicate balancing act for the righty, as he has generally been more effective when keeping the ball in the air – a strategy that obviously holds more water in Oakland than it would in, say, Cincinnati.
- The opposite can be said of Anibal Sanchez, coming off a surprising comeback with the Atlanta Braves driven in part by a return to the wormburning ways of his early career. His groundball rate (45 GB%) returned to career levels after dipping below 40% for a two-year stretch that just so happened to produce career-high ERAs. Atlanta has interest in bringing the righty back for 2019, per Morosi (via Twitter), but they’re not the only club with interest. Given their similar price points, Sanchez and Fiers likely share suitors, though the Reds and Nationals have shown the most interest in Sanchez thus far. A year and a half older than Fiers, Sanchez will be 35 by Opening Day.
- It’s a little surprising not to see the Milwaukee Brewers listed as pursuers for the starters above, but a slow burn winter isn’t uncommon for the Brew Crew. They have made one notable move, sending a Competitive Balance draft pick to Texas for funky left-hander Alex Claudio. Interestingly, Claudio’s sidelong delivery may be more than an incidental quirk for the Brewers, per Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs. The Brewers now boast a relatively substantial stable of minor leaguers who rely on deception and unique throwing motions, enough of a sample to presume an organizational focus, or at least curiosity. Given the stirring ascendancy of Josh Hader, himself a non-traditional thrower, it’s interesting to see the Brewers potentially exploring a system-wide extrapolation of Hader’s success. From a player valuation standpoint, the one-for-one swap with Texas is noteworthy because of what it means about Milwaukee’s evaluation of college hurlers. The pick being sent to Texas likely lands somewhere in the 40s, where advanced college relievers are often available. Meanwhile, Claudio’s price is rising as a first-time arbitration player. One view supposes the cost-conscious Brewers must view the prospects available in that spot as less-than. The other view, of course, is that this deal is not a wholesale denunciation of the draft class, rather Milwaukee just likes Claudio and views his major league experience as present-day value for a team with legitimate pennant aspirations in 2019.