After Eduardo Rodriguez went down with an injury, the idea of the Red Sox looking at starting pitching before the trade deadline started to become more and more popular. It makes sense, as the team has major question marks beyond their top three (and some question marks within that top three). They don’t really need a top-level pitcher, but they could use a more stable option at the back of their rotation, particularly if Drew Pomeranz can’t fully make his way back. Well, a new name has joined the list of potential trade targets, and he’s also the last starting pitcher the Red Sox have seen in game action. The Red Sox are “evaluating” Mike Fiers of the Tigers, according to a report from Buster Olney.
Red Sox among a bunch of teams evaluating DET's Mike Fiers as a possible trade target -- and they are doing it first-hand tonight. Fiers opened this game with three scoreless innings; one out in the fourth now.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 21, 2018
As Olney tweets, the Red Sox are not the only team to show interest in the right-handed starter, which makes sense. The Tigers are clear sellers and Fiers is not part of their long-term future. He does have another year of team control after the 2018 season, but he’s also 33 years old and has been more okay than good over his career. Of course, he does show flashes of more than that, and the Red Sox experienced that firsthand on Saturday. Detroit’s righty shut down Boston’s lineup in that game, shutting them out over 6 1⁄3 innings of work.
As far as what Fiers brings to the table on the mound, it’s that sort of back-end arm we discussed above. He has a fastball that plays up from its low-90s velocity, but that doesn’t really mean he has strikeout stuff. He’s striking out just 6.6 batters per nine innings this year, instead relying on control to do damage. Although his 3.49 ERA looks very intriguing (it’s a 125 ERA+), his perhipherals suggest some regression due to the lack of strikeouts as well as a consistent home run problem which likely wouldn’t improve with a move to the AL East. Even if the control is real — and it’s a major improvement over previous seasons in his career — the mediocrity he’d shown in the previous two seasons combined with the underlying stats have me fearing regression.
The fact of the matter is that the starting pitching market is simply underwhelming this year. I don’t have a ton of faith in Pomeranz right now, but it seems obvious to me that the best case scenario for Boston is that their in-house southpaw can revert back to his 2017 self. That would allow them to focus on other needs rather than the rotation. If he can’t get back to his old self, however (and there’s not a ton of time for him to do so), they’ll likely look for some cheap options to put at the back end. Fiers fits that bill, and as we saw Saturday he can out-pitch his general talent level on any given night.