Doug Fister: Short-term Value for Royals

With Wei-Yin Chen signing with the Miami Marlins, the mid-tier starting pitching market is beginning to thin out. Doug Fister has offers on the table, and could be the next of the mid-tier names to sign. The Philadelphia Phillies, Marlins, and Detroit Tigers are all seen as potential landing spots for the tall right-hander.

One name absent from the initial list of teams rumored to be interested in Fister is Kansas City. There have been no concrete reports linking the 31-year-old to the World Series champs, but that hardly means they are not interested. Despite their status as reigning World Series winners, the Royals are projected for a losing record in 2016 depending on which statistical model you follow. The reason — their shaky starting rotation.

Behind Edinson Volquez, the Royals’ rotation is one giant question mark heading into next season. Yordano Ventura has shown the ability to dominate, but was ticketed for Triple-A in the middle of last year. The 24-year-old right-hander with the triple-digit heater finished the season with a 13-8 record and 4.08 ERA. Ventura did settle down in August and September, but he has to prove again that he can pitch consistently while also keeping his emotions in check. The final four names in the running to open the season in the starting rotation — Kris Medlen, Danny Duffy, Chris Young, and Jason Vargas — pose even more questions than Ventura.

Can Medlen pitch effectively for a full season and stay healthy? Can Duffy be consistent as a starter? Young may be better off flipping back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation. Vargas is coming off a season-ending injury. Medlen has shown an ability to pitch effectively but his health will always be a concern. If the starting rotation is ineffective, the Royals’ top-five bullpen will be rendered useless.

The Royals have already had a successful offseason. Alex Gordon stayed home and Joakim Soria returned. The starting rotation questions can be addressed with a low-risk signing of Doug Fister. Fister is a veteran pitcher with a proven track record. His 2015 season was a disaster thanks to injuries, but in 2014, he was arguably the best pitcher in a Washington Nationals rotation that included Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez. He has a 3.42 career ERA, which closely matches his 3.62 career FIP. In the postseason, Fister has a 2.60 ERA in 55.1 innings.

More teams should be interested in Doug Fister, but his down year seems to be keeping teams away. Fister is a control artist who limits walks and pitches to contact. That approach should play well in Kauffman Stadium and the AL Central. With a one-year deal, Doug Fister can prove himself for the rest of the league and stand out in a weak 2017 free-agent class. The Royals get a pitcher with number-two starter upside at a steep discount. That’s a win-win for all sides.

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