Pittsburgh Pirates Hot Stove: Doug Fister


It’s no secret that one area that the Pittsburgh Pirates will look to add to this offseason is the starting rotation. Besides Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, the players that contributed in 2015 have their fair share of question marks. The team will do what they can to bring back J.A. Happ if they can get him at a reasonable rate, but that will be tough given how well he pitched after he came over at the deadline. Charlie Morton is signed through 2016 and had more bad starts than good last season so who knows what to expect from him next season. Jeff Locke continues to show that he is not a good option for the rotation and is in danger of being non tendered.

In the minors, Tyler Glasnow could make an impact in 2016, but likely will not make his debut until midseason if management deems him ready since the Pirates have a history of not bringing up top prospects to start the season. The other top pitching prospect, Jameson Taillon, has been dealing with a bevy of injuries the last few years and has not pitched competitively since 2013. Like Taillon, Casey Sadler, Nick Kingham and Brandon Cumpton have all recently undergone the dreaded Tommy John surgery and will miss all or most of the 2016 campaign.

So considering all of this, the Pirates will most likely need to look at free agency to bring some new arms into the mix. The Pirates have never gone after top tier free agents, so the chances of David Price, Jordan Zimmermann or Johnny Cueto coming to Pittsburgh are about the same as Pedro Alvarez going 4-4 and not committing an error in the same game. That means that the Pirates will be in search of reclamation projects that they can get at a reasonable rate this offseason.

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In a previous piece, I speculated that Tim Lincecum could be a good target for the Pirates since he had so much success in San Francisco but lately saw his statistics balloon due in most part to a drop in velocity. Another player the Pirates should consider, but one that will probably cost more, is Doug Fister. The Nationals did not extend a qualifying offer to him so he will be on the market this winter.

Fister made his debut in 2009 with Seattle and pitched there until he was traded to Detroit at the deadline in 2011. In December 2013 he was again traded, this time to Washington. His first year with the Nationals was very good, going 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA and he finished 8th in the Cy Young Award voting. 2015 did not go as well for him. He spent much of the season on the disabled list and only was able to start 15 games. He went 5-7 and had a 4.19 ERA (which is actually better than his 4.55 FIP). As with Lincecum, there is a chance that his former team will attempt to resign him, but if that does not happen then the Pirates should at least kick the tires on Fister.

One thing that Fister is not is a pitcher who racks up strikeouts. For his career he has struck out 732 in 1,085.2 innings of work. The most strikeouts he has had in a season is 159 and that was in 2013 when he pitched 208.2 innings. One thing that Fister is very good at is limiting free passes. Last season he averaged 2.1 walk per 9 innings and for his career that figure sits at 1.8.

But the reason that Fister would be a good rotation option for the Pirates is that he relies on inducing groundouts when he is on the mound, similar to Morton. Per Fangraphs, last season groundouts made up 44.6% of Fister’s outs. In 2013 that number was 54.3%. Because the Pirates are one of the most progressive teams when it comes to defensive shifts, Fister could return to the success he had before 2015.

One thing that Fister is not is a pitcher who racks up strikeouts. For his career he has struck out 732 in 1,085.2 innings of work. The most strikeouts he has had in a season is 159 and that was in 2013 when he pitched 208.2 innings.

Fister for sure will have his suitors this offseason so if the Pirates are considering him they will have competition from other teams around the league. Last season Fister made $11.2 million and the year before that his contract was for $7.2 million, so he won’t come cheap even though his coming off of a down year. Depending on how many teams court the right hander, a multiyear deal around or above the annual rate he was paid the last year in Washington may be enough to get him to come to Pittsburgh.

Fister is one of the top bounce back candidates for 2016 and would fit well in Pittsburgh due to him being a pitcher who relies on groundballs for most of his outs. He would slot nicely at the back end of the rotation which is an area that the Pirates will need to fill heading into the season.

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