The Royals are in the market for a veteran no. 5 starter. Well traveled 32-year-old Doug Fister could fit the bill.
The Kansas City Royals have plenty of starting pitching candidates, but many of them are unreliable. Jason Vargas has pitched sparingly the last two seasons after Tommy John surgery in 2015. Mike Minor has struggled after shoulder surgery. Chris Young got battered in 2016 as he suffered a series of arm troubles.
The slow-moving free-agent market is working to Kansas City’s advantage. As Spring Training draws near, the more the leverage favors teams. We also might be seeing some of the effects of the new CBA. Given the draconian penalties for teams over the luxury tax threshold for more than three seasons in a row, some of the big spenders seem more cautious about adding payroll.
The luxury tax threshold also increased by a less-than-expected amount, further curbing bidding wars. Finally, with compensation declining for tagged free-agents, teams are more reluctant to lose their first round draft pick in the final gasp of the old CBA.
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Fister has been largely ineffective the last two seasons, but went 16-6 with a 2.41 ERA as recently as 2014. His pitch velocity charts shows a small decline since that season, but isn’t precipitous. Fister is a guy that averages a touch over 88 mph on his fastball. But his stuff plays up because of his 6’8″ height.
Presumably, Fister’s releases the ball closer to home plate than most pitchers. At major-league speeds, releasing the ball one foot nearer to home plate will make your pitch appear three to four mph faster.
Fister is yet another pitch-to-contact guy. He’s certainly not overpowering hitters with a K/9 less than 6.0 the last two years. But, the Kansas City Royals have gotten good value from this type of starter since their defense became elite in 2013.
Given his recent mediocre performance, Fister is likely to accept a one-year deal within Kansas City’s budget. The Royals could do worse.