Could Mike Fiers Be The Next Pirate Reclamation Project?

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on September 22, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 22: Mike Fiers #50 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on September 22, 2018 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images) /
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A veteran pitcher that was non-tendered on Friday could be a fit for the Pittsburgh Pirates

During the tenure of Ray Searage as the team’s pitching coach the Pittsburgh Pirates have been known for acquiring reclamation projects for their pitching staff. Joel Hanrahan, A.J. Burnett, Jason Grilli, Mark Melancon, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, J.A. Happ, and Richard Rodriguez are all among the pitchers the Pirates have brought in during Searage’s tenure that Uncle Ray has helped to get their careers back on track.

So far this offseason the Pirates have been busy. However, they have not added to their Major League pitching staff yet. Odds are, this will change as Neal Huntington is always looking to add pitching. A starting pitcher that is available and may interest the Pirates is veteran righty Mike Fiers.

The 33-year-old Fiers was non-tendered by the Oakland Athletics on Friday making Fiers a free agent. While the A’s non-tendering Fiers was not a total shock, it was a bit of a surprise as the team had just acquired him from the Detroit Tigers in July to help bolster an injury riddled starting rotation.

An eight-year MLB veteran, Fiers has pitched for the Brewers, Astros, Tigers, and A’s. He owns a 4.04 ERA, 4.35 FIP, and a 21.8% strikeout rate in 898 career innings pitched. His 898 innings of work comes across 172 games, with 153 of them being starts.

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Since 2012, using fWAR, Fiers has been worth at least 1.7 wins every year except for two. These two seasons were 2013 (-0.5) and 2017 (0.1). Last season, Fiers carried an fWAR of 1.4 to go with a 3.56 ERA.

However, due to problems with the long ball and a declining strikeout rate, Fiers owned a 4.75 FIP last season. Fiers’ 19.5% strikeout rate in 2018 was the second lowest of his career, while his 1.67 HR/9 was the second highest. His home run rate was only topped by the 1.88 HR/9 he allowed in 2017.

Fixing the home run issue Fiers has had the past two seasons could turn him back into the pitcher owned a 3.88 ERA and a 3.93 FIP in 95 starts from 2012 through 2016. And PNC Park alone could help to fix Fiers with his struggles with the long ball.

Fiers struggled with his slider and changeup in 2018. Opposing batters slugged .514 off of his slider in 2018 and .537 off of his changeup. He also allowed more home runs off of these two pitches than he did his other three pitches combined.

Tweaking his slider, which is something Searage has had success doing with Chad Kuhl and Jameson Taillon in recent seasons, could prove to be beneficial for Fiers. He would also benefit from throwing his curveball (31.4% whiff rate, .181 slugging percentage in 2018) more often. Again, this is where Searage would come into play.

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The Pittsburgh Pirates love to bring in reclamation project pitchers, and for good reason. No team in baseball has had as much success with reclamation projects on the hill than the Pirates the past seven seasons. After being non-tendered by the A’s on Friday, Mike Fiers could be the next Pirate reclamation project.

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