The Houston Astros made a move to solidify their rotation, adding right-handed pitcher Doug Fister. What does the TCB staff think of that move?
I have been vocally opposed to it simply on the grounds of not seeing the potential benefit (a number 3 starter, *if* he rebounds) outweighing the likely burden of having two #5 starters fighting for one number 5 slot, with the other becoming an expensive mediocre reliever or a VERY expensive AAA starter. However, I've also said all along that I trust the Front Office. If they, with much more available data than I have, see worthy value there, then I'm on board. Also worth noting that there's a huge difference between the one year, $7 million contract he signed versus the two year, $22 million contract he was reportedly seeking when I made those assertions. At this price, we could (in a worst-case scenario) DFA either he or Feldman if it's not working out, and it'd probably be okay. The options improve from there. So I'm okay with it, provided that he doesn't have a huge leash as a starter. If he is consistently getting roughed up again, I do hope they make a change.
First sentence: I don't love it. Second sentence: I readily acknowledge that the front office has way more information at their disposal than I do. Fister was throwing just over 86 mph last season, suffered an injury, lost his job to Tanner Roark--who ended with a 4.82 ERA as a starter and 5.29 FIP--and had an ERA of almost 7.00 during his starts after the All-Star Break. That's not exactly a glowing recent résumé. The Astros, like all major league teams, need a handful more than five starters to make it through a full season, and I do like Fister better than the immediate options lingering at Triple A. Howevs, I can't imagine that Fister would sign a one-year deal with the Astros unless reasonably assured of being in the starting rotation so that he can resurrect his value for the 2016/17 offseason. That means he's in the rotation for keepsies, unless he flops. It's a pretty big risk to hand the ball to a guy with such recent struggles and injuries considering the club is in contention for the playoffs. Early struggles could mean 1 or 2 games difference -- 1 or 2 games that matter a bunch during a playoff chase. Obviously, if he lives up to his perfromances prior to 2015, that's great for the Astros. But that's a pretty big IF in my opinion, and so I can't feel overwhelmed by this signing. I'm just whelmed.
On the stats front, Fister doesn't have particularly good batted ball velocity in any category, and he doesn't have great stuff. But he doesn't allow walks, which this front office obviously values, and he's typically quite good at limiting home runs. Over the past 3 seasons, he has trended from an extreme ground ball pitcher to more neutral, or even leaning towards the fly ball side.
I don't know what to make of Fister. His 2015 was a disaster compared to his previous performances, and there are warning signs that it might continue down the ugly path. But he's also the same guy who averaged an ERA well under 3.30 from 2011 to 2014.
I dunno. I'll be interested to see how it plays out, but I can't say I'm excited.
Love it. Absolutely love it. I've been one of the pro-Fister staff members for a while now, and I don't see how anyone could not be at least okay with this signing. Fister had a long history of success prior to last season. Maybe he doesn't rebound. Maybe Scott Feldman ends up having a better year. But this is, at worst, experienced depth, and it came at an extremely reasonable price.
I can't tell you how the Feldman/Fister battle will shake out or what happens to the loser, but I can tell you I think the Astros are a better team than they were yesterday, and they got that improvement at a very reasonable cost for just one year, and that means if it's not working out with Fister they won't feel obligated to keep him around and block a prospect. There seems to be no real downside here.
Before the news broke on the Fister signing I was decidedly on the fence. Looking to the upcoming season I like the rotation that we have in place, but am not enthralled with the depth waiting in the wings. The guys that should provide support from the minors are more than a year away in my opinion and the depth options in the high minors are not the guys I want to be relying on in any capacity down the stretch.
With that said I still didn't want anything to do with a multi year contract for any starter over 30, especially one coming off of arguably the worst year of his career. But that is where this deal gets exciting for me. I mean where is the risk? He is only signing for one year and it isn't even like it is for that much. Odds are that this deal doesn't end up being a big deal in either direction, but the odds definitely seem to be more on the side of bringing added value to the Astros this year as opposed to blowing up in Luhnow's face.
As a guy who had Fister kill his fantasy team last year and waited and waited for him to rebound before dropping him, I'm actually okay with this signing. Fister's stats have been trending in the wrong direction lately, but he has a good track record and in Brent Strom he will have a coach who may be able to help him make some positive adjustments.
Fister could improve the rotation next year, if he doesn't the Astros still have depth in the minors and Scott Feldman to fill the void in the fifth rotation slot. Either way, a Fister signing is probably worth the price of admission. In baseball, there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal.
This is exactly the kind of investment that makes sense for a team like the Astros; a team in contention that would like to add incremental talent without the exorbitant dollars and years that is commonplace in the free agent market. This is a 1 year, $7M investment. In the worst case scenario, this is "just" a $7M sunk cost. Although the potential worst case scenario would not feel great in the front office, it wouldn't mean the end of the world either.
At its best, this signing will be another shrewd move to add talent to the overall roster. You add a starting pitcher that has had sustained success at the big league level. He is not perfect by any means, and him taking on a 1 year deal to reestablish his value is indicative of that. But he does provide above-average depth to what was projected to be an already-strong starting rotation. I think Fister's addition to the rotation allows Feldman to take his time in getting fully healthy before re-joining the team. And the best case scenario for me would be if both Fister and Feldman stay healthy, and pitch to their career averages. That would mean they are two pitchers that provide quality innings. And with Feldman getting only $8M in the final year of his front-loaded contract, and with Fister receiving $7M plus incentives, both are very much affordable, and one could always be traded at the trade deadline for a complimentary piece to the roster. Being realistic here, it wouldn't be a blockbuster return, but perhaps we could add another lottery ticket to the farm system, and scratch off another Francis Martes.
In any case, this low cost addition of Doug Fister provides additional talent, roster depth, and flexibility to our big league team. For those reasons, I'll gladly endorse this deal.
2014 Pitching lines:
Pitcher A: 2.25 ERA, .096 WHIP
Pitcher B: 2.66 ERA, 1.07 WHIP
Pitcher C: 2.41 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
All three had inconsistent results in 2015. Pitcher A (Johnny Cueto) and Pitcher B (Jordan Zimmermann) signed massive multi-year free agent contracts this offseason. Pitcher C (Doug Fister) had the worst 2015 by a lot, but the Astros just signed him for one year and 7 million with incentives. It's a pretty nice upside gamble in the hopes he gets back to those 2014 numbers. If he doesn't, it's a sunk cost that won't derail the team's chances in 2016. I like all the young depth options the Astros have at starting pitcher, but none of the Triple A guys have the sort of upside that Fister possesses if he can get healthy.
I like this signing so much more than a Gallardo signing. The thought of losing the draft pick and much less going to the Rangers made me throw up in my mouth a bit.
I like the Fister signing, would have preferred Kazmir obviously but his price and contract are a bit silly.