(Over the next week, we will be examining each of the A's arbitration-eligible players to determine whether they will return in 2019.)
Mike FIers put together the best full season of his career in 2018. The 33-year-old went 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 31 starts between Detroit and Oakland.
The A's acquired Fiers from the Tigers on August 6 in exchange for minor league pitchers Nolan Blackwood and Logan Shore. The right-hander made 10 appearances for Oakland, including nine starts, going 5-2 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.06 WHIP.
In eight career seasons, Fiers is 54-55 with a 4.04 ERA. He earned $6 million in 2018 and is projected to get $9.7 million in arbitration, according to MLB Trade Rumors.
Why he might be a bargain
At this moment, Fiers is probably the A's number one starting pitcher. With Sean Manaea, Jharel Cotton, and A.J. Puk all expected to miss at least the start of the season with injuries, Fiers becomes even more of a necessity in the A's rotation. While $9.7 million is no small chunk of change, it is more than fair for a top of the rotation starting pitcher, especially on a team that struggled in that area last season. Oakland can rely on Fiers to eat plenty of innings and give the team a chance to win in every one of his starts.
Why he might be too pricey
You could argue that $9.7 million is too much to spend on a 33-year-old pitcher who has never had dominant stuff. On most playoff teams, Fiers would be a middle of the rotation type pitcher, rather than a number one or two. Perhaps the best argument is that the A's didn't even trust him to start the American League Wild Card Game, though that strategy is still being debated.
When you weigh all the factors, it seems likely the A's will bring Fiers back next season. He helped stabilize an injury-ravaged starting rotation last year and should be able to do the same in 2019. While he is not an overpowering pitcher, he lives in the strike zone and works quickly, inducing lots of weak contact when he is on his game. He has also proven to be extremely durable, starting at least 28 games in each of the last four seasons. Fiers is a good bet to be the A's Opening Day starter in 2019.