Detroit – The Tigers checked off the first item on their winter shopping list late Thursday night, signing veteran right-handed starting pitcher Mike Fiers.
The deal, according to reports, is for one year and $6 million. Fiers still has another year of arbitration left, so conceivably, the Tigers could tender him for 2019. That said, if he has success next season, he'd more likely be a trade chip in July.
Fiers, who threw a no-hitter against the Dodgers in 2015, is 32. He was left off the postseason roster by the Astros in all three series and was non-tendered by the club last week. But he fits what the rebuilding Tigers were looking for – a veteran pitcher who can eat up innings on a mostly young staff and willing to come on a one-year deal.
He joins Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd, Daniel Norris and Jordan Zimmermann in the starting rotation, for now. The Tigers could add another veteran arm, as well. They have expressed some interest in former Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman.
Fiers has averaged 167 innings and made at least 28 starts over the last three seasons for the Houston Astros, though with an enlarged 4.43 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. He was 11-8 with a 4.48 ERA in 2016 before falling out of the rotation last season (8-10, 5.22).
Fiers yielded a career-most 32 home runs last season, but he also may have endured some bad luck. According to FanGraphs, his hard-hit rate was down 5 percent last season, from 35 to 30. Also, opponents’ batting averages were down on both his fastball (.247 from .332 on his fastball) and change-up (.244 from .281). Opponents his .211 on his curveball, up from .192 in 2016.
Here’s the most encouraging stat, from the Tigers’ perspective. In 26 games (25 starts) against teams in the American League Central Division, Fiers has posted a 2.96 ERA.
The Tigers are also believed to be interested in Japanese reliever Yoshihisa Hirano. The right-hander will turn 34 in March. From 2013 through last season he posted 143 saves, a 2.62 ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings for the Orix Buffaloes.