According to SB Nation colleague Chris Cotillo over the weekend, he was told by a source that “Free-agent right-hander Doug Fister threw for four interested clubs in California on Thursday... The Mets, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and Angels were all in attendance,” and he reports the Giants are also interested. What those teams have in common, is that their rotation has been negatively impacted by injury over the first month. For Arizona, Fister could take over the slot opened up a result of the Tommy John surgery required by Shelby Miller.
However, there’s likely good reason that he remained unsigned through the winter. While there’s no doubting Fister’s experience, with close to two hundred starts since his major-league debut for the Seattle Mariners in 2009, he had an ERA+ of only 85 with the Houston Astros, in 32 starts. He appears to have been on a sharply-downward track since his 2014 campaign when he went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA in Washington. Although even there, he was the epitome of a soft-tosser, striking out fewer than six batters per nine innings, and having turned 33 in February, age is unlikely to be on his side.
It’s interesting the team is even looking, possibly suggesting they’re not satisfied with the alternatives currently available to them. We’ve already seen both Zack Godley and Braden Shipley get starts as a stand-in for Miller; Godley will make his second outing of the year on Wednesday against the Tigers. There’s also the much-discussed possibility of converting Archie Bradley back from a power reliever to a starter. I wouldn’t call Fister an obvious upgrade on that trio. It may be the D-backs are exercising due diligence, and perhaps offering Fister a minor-league contract to provide additional depth.
It’s also worth noting that, not having pitched in spring training, Fister would likely not be immediately available. While I’m sure he has been keeping himself in solid physical shape, rather than sitting on the couch eating Doritos and watching American Ninja Warrior, he will likely require minor-league outings to get used to facing live batters, not having done that since the end of last season. I’ve a feeling this won’t end up going anywhere for the D-backs, whose rotation is in relatively good shape compared to some of the other teams named (Is #AtLeastWereNotTheMets trending yet?). We’ll save the money for bigger needs later on, if we’re still in the playoff hunt.
[And is it just me, or does anyone else have to suppress a strong urge to spell the pitcher’s name with a silent P at the beginning?]