Houston Astros: Was Doug Fister a Steal for Jeff Luhnow?
By Eric Huysman
Doug Fister a good buy for the Houston Astros?
The Houston Astros offseason appears to be wrapping up, and they will soon be packing the truck to go to Kissimmee for Spring Training. Even though I wrote about potential interest in Jonathan Lucroy yesterday, I don’t see any major moves made by Jeff Luhnow before pitchers or catchers report. You might see a minor league free agent added here or there, but the Astros 40-man still has one opening on it, it will be interesting to see who is added at some point. What about the last player the Astros signed, was Doug Fister a smart move by Luhnow?
Speaking of minor league deals, according to Nick Cafaro of the Boston Globe, several teams were scared of Fister’s medical reports and thought they could get him to sign a minor-league deal with their team. Fister was seeking a two-year deal worth about $22 M, in which no one was interested in paying for the guy who lost about three MPH on his fastball last season. Luhnow swooped in and offered him a $7 million base salary, which was much better than anything the other teams were offering. Fister put his tail between his legs and took the Astros deal.
While the $7 M is the base salary, Fister could earn more based on performances where he could make a little more that the $11 M he was seeking per year. According to an ESPN article, “Fister can earn an additional $5 million in performance bonuses based on innings: $1 million each for 100, 125, 150, 175 and 200.” As cheap as the Astros are, they hope that Fister earns his full $12 M by pitching 200+ innings. This would have meant that Fister has had a bounceback year, regained his value as a pitcher, and hopefully led the team to the playoffs.
Elbow injuries could have affected his game last year, as he saw his average fastball slip from 89 MPH in 2014 to 86 MPH in 2015. Fister is not a strikeout pitcher, but last year, he was really not a strikeout pitcher before, but he really struggled in 2015. In 2013, Fister was a big groundball pitcher, which is something that Brett Strom should be able to help Fister regain that ability. Look what Strom was able to do with Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.
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The question was: did Luhnow get a good deal by signing Fister for one season? Should Fister regain his old form and earn the full value of his contract with the incentives, yes it was for sure worth the money due to the pitching market right now. The Astros get another veteran pitcher to help limit the innings in the bullpen and could win 12-14 games. With a rotation that already consists an above average staff, he could be the final touch on Luhnow’s masterpiece.
However, should Fister blow up and last only a few starts, the Astros only are out $7 M and can turn back to Scott Feldman or give some of the kids a chance. The Astros could be looking at Fister as an insurance policy; they probably don’t need him, but it’s nice to have him if it helps the team win. Every free agent you sign is like buying a Power Ball ticket, you may not win with every ticket you buy. However, if you never bought the ticket in the first place, you would not win guaranteed.
Next: Astros Rumors: Are they interested in Jonathan Lucroy? Should they be?
It’s too early to make judgments on the signing; we need to see what Fister’s velocity is in the spring. Let’s hope that the odds are in Luhnow’s favor with this deal, because the Astros could win the Power Ball by making the World Series with the talent they have. Is Fister the winning ticket, what do you think?