The Texas Rangers have found one of the answers to their main off-season dilemma, the three vacancies in the starting rotation, after right-hander Doug Fister passed his physical Tuesday and signed a one-year, $4 million deal for 2018.
General manager Jon Daniels said that the Rangers liked the way Fister finished last season, looking more like the pitcher who has won more than 10 games five times in his career, and Fister said that he feels like that pitcher.
Quality sinker. Deception in the delivery. Lots of ground balls. Lots of strikes.
“I really feel like I reverted back to my old ways, pitching philosophy and physical pitching mechanics,” said Fister, who went 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA in 18 games/15 starts with the Boston Red Sox.
Never miss a local story.
“I feel like I have that ability to repeat my delivery and get that pitch quality back up to where it used to be. I feel 100 percent healthy and am back to manipulating the ball the way I used to.”
But by no means did Fister top the Rangers’ off-season wish list. Shohei Ohtani does, and the Rangers figure to be one of 30 teams with a hook on the line. Like the others, the Rangers received from Ohtani’s agent a list of seven topics he wants addressed as he sizes up his suitors.
Money won’t be the deciding factor, with Ohtani falling under the signing rules for international free agents under the age of 25 and with him forgoing a potential nine-figure deal by coming to the major leagues now instead of in two years.
Daniels said that the Rangers aren’t sure what will ultimately entice Ohtani, but he likes the way the organization will present itself to him if they are given that chance. Ohtani is expected to hit the market Friday.
“It’s tough for me to say,” Daniels said. “I feel strongly about what we have to offer and think our group did really good work in presenting who we are as an organization and what we offer as a community. We’ll await feedback and see what resonates.”
With so much competition, the Rangers could very well miss on Ohtani, and they are pursuing other targets. Daniels said that he expects the Rangers will remain active in the pitching market and that it’s possible the Rangers fill out the rotation with pitchers outside the organization.
He also said that it’s too early to rule out an internal candidate being in the rotation.
“Both are possible,” Daniels said. “We’re a month in, but it’s still wide open.”
Andrew Cashner doesn’t appear to be on the radar despite being the Rangers’ best starting pitcher in 2017. The free agent has received plenty of interest so far and will be meeting with two clubs this week.
Right-handers Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn are considered the best available free-agent starters, with Darvish and Arrieta likely to receive contracts worth north of $20 million a season.
The Rangers seem unlikely to go that high, though signing Fister at only $4 million ($3.5 million for 2018 and a $500,000 buyout if a $4.5 million club option for 2019 is declined) could give the Rangers more flexibility on a premium starter.