Red Sox trade deadline target: Tigers right-handed pitcher Mike Fiers
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox are among the teams scouting Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Fiers as a potential target heading toward the MLB trade deadline.
If you can’t beat them, make them join you. Fine, that’s not how the saying goes. Nonetheless, it’s the approach the Boston Red Sox may take with Detroit Tigers right-hander Mike Fiers.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Red Sox are among the teams scouting Fiers as a possible target leading up to the trade deadline.
Boston got a close look at the Tigers starter on Saturday. Fiers held the Red Sox scoreless over 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three walks. He struck out six and earned the win.
This was hardly the first taste of success for Fiers against the Red Sox. He’s 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA in four career appearances against Boston.
Fiers is coming off a down season with the Houston Astros that started poorly and ended worse. He finished with a 5.22 ERA and didn’t pitch in the postseason during Houston’s World Series run. However, he did put together a solid eight week stretch in the middle of the season that provided a glimpse of his upside. That included a start in which he held Boston to one run over seven innings. Current Red Sox manager Alex Cora was the bench coach of that Astros team, so he’s familiar with what Fiers can bring.
This year has been a strong bounce-back campaign for Fiers. He’s 7-6 with a 3.49 ERA, turning himself into a valuable trade chip for the struggling Tigers.
The Red Sox could have interest in adding a starter given the injuries they have suffered in their rotation. There’s concern that the damage to Eduardo Rodriguez‘ ankle is severe and he’s still without a timetable to return. The status of Steven Wright remains unclear. Drew Pomeranz is expected to return from the disabled list next week but his early season struggles leave open questions about how effective he’ll be down the stretch.
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Even if the Red Sox can’t count on those three, they do have other internal options. One would be the lefty who opposed Fiers in his last start – Brian Johnson. He tossed five innings against the Tigers, allowing only two unearned runs. His overall numbers won’t impress, although that’s partially because he’s struggled when pushed into the bullpen. Johnson has stepped up when given a chance to start. He’s 3-2 with a 3.72 ERA in his career as a starter.
Boston can also turn to Hector Velazquez. He’s 6-0 with a 2.61 ERA over 29 appearances this year, including three starts. He’s 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA as a starter. His 4.08 FIP shows Velazquez hasn’t pitched nearly as well as that shiny ERA suggests. However, the Red Sox would gladly take an ERA around 4.00 from their No. 5 starter.
The Red Sox could get by with what they have in the rotation but Fiers would offer a more reliable upgrade. He’s also not a rental. Fiers will still be arbitration eligible next year and won’t hit free agency until 2020. Trading for him now would put Fiers in the mix to potentially replace Pomeranz if he leaves as a free agent this winter.
Upgrading the bullpen seems to be the priority but adding a starter could kill two birds with one stone. Boston could shore up the back of their rotation while the surplus starters could be used to bolster the bullpen. If Pomeranz or Rodriguez struggle to return as starters, perhaps they could thrive in shorter stints out of the bullpen.
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We’ve seen the market set high for top-notch relievers with years of control remaining. If Boston’s depleted farm system can’t afford that price then a more affordable solution could be upgrading the back of the rotation. If that’s the route they decide to go, Fiers is a pitcher to keep an eye on.