The righty is back for his 4th season in green and gold.
The Oakland A’s brought back one of their free agents after all.
The A’s signed pitcher Mike Fiers to a one-year, $3.5 million contract, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Fiers was one of 10 free agents set to depart from Oakland this winter, and six have already signed elsewhere.
After doing virtually nothing for the first three months of the MLB offseason, the A’s jumped into action on Saturday. First they traded Khris Davis for Elvis Andrus, filling their shortstop vacancy while reducing their tight payroll by a couple million. Within a few hours, they used that savings to add depth to their inexperienced pitching staff in the form of Fiers.
The right-hander returns for his fourth season in green and gold. He was first acquired in mid-2018, then was non-tendered but came back on a two-year deal, and now a second tour of free agency yielded the same destination again. He’s been a reliable presence throughout, providing adequate innings in bunches.
Fiers, 2018-20 A’s: 4.00 ERA, 105 ERA+, 296⅔ ip, 215 Ks, 80 BB, 51 HR, 4.96 FIP
He’s not an ace, but he consistently offers 5-6 innings each time he takes the mound, and every so often he throws a no-hitter. Fiers finally got the chance to start a playoff game last October, but was pulled in the 2nd inning after allowing five hits and a walk to the White Sox.
Oakland’s rotation already featured Chris Bassitt, Jesús Luzardo, Sean Manaea, and Frankie Montas, and Fiers gives them five arms with notable MLB experience. They also have several Triple-A prospects battling for opportunities to prove themselves, though none have thrown more than a dozen innings in the bigs, and they acquired lefty Cole Irvin last weekend.
Let’s face it. There might not have been enough innings available on the staff as it was.
Nobody got to pitch a full season in 2020, so ramping up to a full six-month workload was already going to be a tall order. Plus, nobody in the rotation had ever approached 200 innings before to begin with, partly because they all had glaring injury issues in their pasts — Bassitt and Luzardo have had Tommy John surgery, Manaea missed almost all of 2019 to his shoulder, and Montas hurt his back in 2020. All the prospects (Jefferies, Kaprielian, Holmes) are still prospects because they got delayed so long by injury, and they’d barely even begun to stretch out toward starting again when the minors were canceled last year.
But you know who I’ll bet could roll out of bed and throw 180 innings this summer? Mike Fiers. Probably with a league-average ERA, too.
No, he’s not going to lead you through the playoffs, as we saw last fall, but he might help get you there. We’ve always talked of needing to build not a five-man rotation but a 162-game rotation, and that will be more true than ever this year. Fiers helps eat up a lot of those games, and serves as depth for a group that has a thousand different question marks looming over it.
All that said, a fair criticism of this move could be that the A’s might have found these bulk innings cheaper. Perhaps they could have, but I don’t mind having some proven depth instead of just a stack of lotto tickets. Even as his 36th birthday approaches in June, Fiers brings an established track record of both recent performance and recent health, and with the bonus of keeping a familiar player as a brief exception to the constant turnover.
There’s also this little detail for consideration:
The A’s were the only team to make Fiers an offer, I’m told. Interesting – was he being blackballed for being a whistleblower? I certainly hope that’s not the case.
— Susan Slusser (@susanslusser) February 6, 2021
Welcome back, Mike! Bring your beard.
The A’s had one open spot on their 40-man roster this morning. They traded away two players, and got two back, so that netted out even. Adding Fiers means the roster is now full. Players in italics haven’t yet debuted in MLB, and those with asterisks** are Rule 5 draft picks who can’t be sent down to the minors.
Chris Bassitt (R)
Jake Diekman (L)
Sean Murphy (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Mark Canha (R)