Red Sox Free Agency: Doug Fister signs with Texas Rangers

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Doug Fister
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 08: Doug Fister /

Right-handed starting pitcher Doug Fister is leaving the Boston Red Sox to sign a free agent deal with the Texas Rangers.

One member of the Boston Red Sox starting rotation will be pitching elsewhere next season.

Doug Fister has agreed to a major-league deal with the Texas Rangers, pending a physical, reports NBC Sports Boston’s Evan Drellich. The contract is for one year, $3.5 million with a $4.5 million team option for 2019 that can be bought out for $500,000. The option year includes incentives that could escalate his salary to as much as $7 million that season, according to SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo.

The Red Sox scooped Fister off the scrap heap mid-season to add depth to an injury ravaged rotation. His 5-9 record and 4.88 ERA may seem underwhelming on the surface but Fister managed to recover from a rocky start to produce a solid six week stretch that began with his first victory in a Red Sox uniform against the Cleveland Indians. Starting with that win on July 31, Fister lasted over six innings and allowed three runs or fewer in six of seven starts. He posted a 2.79 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .194 average over that stretch.

Boston’s coaching staff helped Fister tinker with his mechanics, including a move to the left side of the rubber to alleviate stress on his delivery. He saw an uptick in velocity and posted an 8.3 K/9 that was easily the highest strikeout rate of his career.

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The improvements Fister made throughout the season earned him a start in Game 3 of the ALDS against the Houston Astros. The move backfired when Fister coughed up three runs without making it out of the second inning, yet the trust the team showed in him tells a lot about how his value was perceived by the end of the season.

The departure of Fister leaves the Red Sox thin on rotation depth. Eduardo Rodriguez could miss the first two months of the season recovering from knee surgery. The team hopes the return of Steven Wright can fill the void after the knuckleball pitcher missed most of the 2016 season. Brian Johnson is another option who should break camp with the big league team given that he’s out of minor league options. He’s expected to transition to the bullpen next season but could pivot back toward a starting role if a spot in the rotation were to open up.

Fister ended up exceeding expectations during his time in Boston but without a guaranteed rotation spot available they couldn’t afford to top the offer he received from the Rangers.

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The Red Sox are are expected to dip back into luxury tax territory in pursuit of a power bat to anchor their lineup but they have limits to how much they’re willing to inflate their payroll. That means being a bit more frugal with filling out other areas of the roster, which sealed Fister’s ticket out of town.