Max Scherzer is now a member of the Washington Nationals, having signed a 7 year/$210 deal to play baseball in the nation’s capital. And while that technically takes one name off the list of available ace options for the Red Sox, it actually appears to open up more pathways for Boston. Given Washington’s incredible rotation depth, rumors have circulated that they will trade a starting pitcher, likely one of Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, or Doug Fister and, while Strasburg and Zimmermann both profile as legitimate aces, Fister is probably the most likely acquisition for the Red Sox.
The chronically underrated Fister, whom the Nationals acquired in exchange for prospect Robbie Ray and utility man Steve Lombardozzi last winter, had the best season of his career in 2014. He missed the first month of the season, but in the 25 games he did start, he was nothing short of excellent, posting a 16-6 record with a 2.41 ERA and 4.08 K/BB.
Now, Fister probably won’t be quite that good going forward, as his FIP of 3.93 suggested that some major luck was involved. However, he does have a career 3.34 ERA and hasn’t posted an ERA over 4.00 since 2010, hinting that while he may not be the ace he was last season, he is absolutely a solid #2 starter.
Perhaps the most likely reason that the Red Sox will pursue Fister, though, is his propensity for inducing ground balls. The Red Sox have taken a grounder-heavy approach in building their rotation recently, adding Justin Masterson (career 56.6% ground ball rate), Joe Kelly (52.4%), Rick Porcello (52.1%), and Wade Miley (48.6%) since July. Fister’s career ground ball rate of 49.2% would fit right into that mix, as those ground ball tendencies mixed with his stingy walk rate (1.3 BB/9 last season) help to outweigh his low strikeout rate (5.4 K/9 last season).
Fister also only has one more season before he hits free agency, so his price likely wouldn’t be extraordinarily high, unlike his counterparts Strasburg and Zimmermann. Plus, despite the low price (relatively speaking), Fister has delivered extremely consistent results in recent seasons and would fit the mold of Boston’s rotation. He wouldn’t be the sexiest option by any means, but he would provide a huge lift to this rotation and the Red Sox likely wouldn’t be forced to part with a top prospect, making him a viable trade target.