It appears Dave Dombrowski subscribes to the “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” strategy of team-building. Hours after Mike Fiers dominated Dombrowski’s Boston Red Sox on Saturday, the Sox have apparently expressed interest in acquiring the veteran righthander, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. Other teams are also interested — the Yankees might also be involved — in grabbing Fiers, who would be a modest pick-up on an otherwise uninspiring pitching market.
While advanced metrics aren’t as impressed with what he has accomplished this season, there’s something to be said for Fiers’ production. He has a 3.49 ERA in 19 starts for the Tigers this season, and leads the team with seven wins. He has already accumulated a career-best 2.7 rWAR. His strikeout rate is the lowest of his career, but an excellent 5.1 percent walk rate has resulted in his best strikeout-to-walk ratio since 2014. He has sustained even better production for a while now, with a 3.00 ERA since May 8.
Even though the Red Sox have the best record in baseball and are virtual locks for the postseason — FanGraphs has both them and the Yankees at 100 percent right now — they will want to lock up the AL East crown and avoid a play-in game in October. Fiers would be a cheap replacement for lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez, who is currently on the disabled list with an ankle injury. Fiers served as a capable fill-in for the Houston Astros last season, leading the team in innings on their way to the playoffs (and, eventually, a World Series title).
The Yankees could also put Fiers to good use. Their rotation has largely been buoyed by ace Luis Severino and CC Sabathia, but has struggled to eat innings on the back end. Youngster Domingo German has 95 strikeouts in 82 1⁄3 innings, but has a 5.68 ERA in 19 big league appearances. Luis Cessa and Jonathan Loaisiga have also made a few starts, but aren’t long-term options. The Yankees have been hunting other starters over the past month, such as Toronto’s J.A. Happ.
While Fiers has another year of club control remaining before he is eligible for free agency, the Tigers would be wise to move him this summer. He is enjoying a career year at age 33, one that he likely won’t repeat in 2019. Whether he remains in Detroit or not, he is a likely non-tender candidate due to his age, declining strikeout rate, and $6 million salary (which would only increase in his final year of arbitration). To their credit, the Tigers have made moving Fiers and others a recent focus.
The #Tigers are focusing their efforts on trying to move Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers and Leonys Martin at the deadline. Fulmer and Castellanos are more on the back burner. Al Avila will listen, but a team will have to make a big push to land one of those guys.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 20, 2018
Update, 7/23/18: The Oakland Athletics are also interested in Fiers, according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. The A’s recently traded for reliever Jeurys Familia, but only surrendered two low-lever prospects and international bonus pool money in the deal. The A’s have one of the better farm systems in baseball, but have struggled to squeeze innings out of their starting rotation. Only two A’s starters have made more than 10 starts in 2018, with lefthander Sean Manaea the only pitcher to log over 100 innings.