Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sox Pick Up Peralta, Fister

Fister joined the Bosox Friday and made his season debut two days later (CSNNE)
The Red Sox made a kiddie pool-sized splash on Friday by signing Jhonny Peralta to a Minor League deal and claiming Doug Fister off waivers. Peralta had been linked to Boston since St. Louis designated him for assignment earlier in the month, but the Fister move seemed to come more out of left field. While both were star players a few years ago, they have slipped considerably with age and are unlikely to contribute much to a Boston team that's clearly scrounging for reinforcements.

An All-Star as recently as 2015, Peralta's offense became below average (90 OPS+) as he battled injuries last year before bottoming out to .204/.259/.204 in 58 plate appearances with the Cardinals this year. Now 35, his OPS has fallen every year since 2013 and he's clearly in the twilight of his career. The three-time All-Star had a good run over the last decade, but it's hard to imagine him sparking the offense after failing to record an RBI or extra-base hit in 21 games this season.

Granted, third base has been a black hole for Boston this year, with Pablo Sandoval and co. combining to hit just .198/.250/.308 through Monday. Even a washed-up Peralta would do better than that, but how much better remains to be seen. The Sox are hoping he can find his swing in Pawtucket before calling him up, where Fenway would ostensibly help revitalize his sagging production, although it's worth remembering that the same plan failed with Allen Craig. Their best option remains cutting ties with Sandoval and promoting Rafael Devers, but good luck convincing the front office to swallow the remaining half of Panda's $95 million contract.

The Peralta pickup is reminiscent of last summer when the Red Sox traded not one, but two prospects to land a 34-year-old Aaron Hill from the Brewers. Hill was batting a solid .283/.359/.421 (106 OPS+) at the time but immediately fell apart after arriving in Boston, posting a lowly 53 OPS+ from there on out (Hill has been even worse for the Giants this year, so kudos to Milwaukee for selling high on Hill before he collapsed). At least Dealin' Dave didn't burn any prospects this time around, although he probably dangled a few before being reminded that no, sorry, you can't trade players when signing unrestricted free agents.

While Peralta has yet to take his first cuts in a Red Sox uniform, Fister was immediately thrown into the rotation and started Sunday's series finale against the Angels. While his quality start was encouraging, he's another player who's been trending in the wrong direction the past several seasons, as his walk rate his increased along with his WHIP every year since 2014. His ERA nearly doubled in that time, ballooning from 2.41 in '14 to 4.64 last year as his lack of strikeouts (career 6.0 K/9 rate) caught up with him. The 33-year-old doesn't throw hard and pitches to contact, which is a recipe for disaster at Fenway and in this new era of juiced baseballs. He'll merely be a back-of-the-rotation filler until Eduardo Rodriguez returns from the DL, but until then the Sox are merely hoping he can outpitch the likes of Hector Velazquez, Kyle Kendrick, and others who have filled this role for Boston lately.

With neither player likely to move the needle for the first-place Sox, the best explanation for these acquisitions might be that Dombrowski was familiar with them from their time on the Tigers earlier this decade, when both were markedly better players. Dombrowski originally traded for both, bringing Peralta over from the Indians in 2010 (and immediately re-signing him that winter) before dealing for Fister the following summer. Both excelled under Dombrowski's watch, with Peralta making two All-Star teams in his three full seasons with Detroit while Fister emerged as a solid mid-rotation starter behind Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Both were sent packing following Detroit's disastrous collapse to Boston in the 2013 ALCS as Peralta left via free agency and Fister was dealt to Washington (in one of the more widely criticized trades of recent times).

Dombrowski watched both players help his Tigers contend for several seasons and knows them well. While he clearly doesn't value prospects, he appears to have a soft spot for over-the-hill veterans.

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