The Orioles could really use another starting pitcher, as they have spent all offseason telling people. One more name has been crossed off their list of possible solutions on Thursday afternoon as the Houston Astros announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Doug Fister to a one year contract.
Fister had something of a rough 2015 season, getting himself bounced from the Nationals rotation as his ERA ballooned and his fastball velocity dropped. I say his ERA ballooned, though at 4.19, it would have still represented an improvement on the O's performance from their starting rotation. Then again, he would have had to face designated hitters in the American League, so with those numbers, he would have probably fit right in with the struggling O's starter.
The Astros will only be on the hook to Fister for $7 million guaranteed, reports fellow SB Nationer Chris Cotillo. That's pretty far removed from two weeks ago when Fister was looking for a two year, $22 million pact. Cotillo adds that performance incentives could take the value of the contract up to $12 million.
That likely means incremental bonuses for either innings pitched milestones, games started milestones, or both. If Fister hits most of them, that means he was good and healthy enough to stick in the rotation for the majority of the season. In that scenario, $12 million will still look like a good deal.
Would you have wanted to see the O's sign Fister to a similar contract? I haven't exactly been a Fister booster through the offseason. That disappearing fastball scares me - down to an average velocity of 86.2 mph, according to Fangraphs. It's concerning for a guy who's just about to turn 32 years old. That's not an age where velocity is likely to come back.
When Fister was seeking $22 million and projected to get $10-12 million guaranteed, those seemed like high numbers for a reclamation project. If you're going to raid the bargain bin, you might as well get a real bargain. If Fister ends up going down the Bud Norris mid-season DFA path, that's a lot of money to flush down the toilet, money that, for the O's, could get socked away into the Manny Machado extension fund.
On the other hand, if Fister bounces back to performance he had as recently as 2014, this will be one of the steals of the offseason. A $7 million bet on a guy with Fister's track record is an easier bet to make. Though he had his problems in 2015, he also has thrown over a thousand innings in the big leagues and has really only had one bad season.
Unfortunately for Fister, the bad season was the season right before he became a free agent. We should all be so lucky to have the worst year of a career to date and still be in line to get paid that much money the next year. Parents, raise your kids to be baseball players, then hope they're good.