As the Toronto Blue Jays charge full steam ahead into October, the Washington Nationals couldn’t be going in a more opposite direction. The winds of change will blow through D.C. this offseason, and according to Jeff Blair of Sportsnet, the Blue Jays could have some interest in starting pitcher Doug Fister on the free agent market. That’s right, we’ve got our first free agency rumor.
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After a terribly disappointing season led by a manager whose decision-making has rarely resembled the sport of baseball, things came to a boil this past weekend when Jonathan Papelbon essentially assaulted Bryce Harper in the dugout. When you’re already one of the least likeable buffoons in Major League Baseball, not to mention an overpaid and aging closer, it’s probably best not to choke the 22-year old N.L. MVP candidate. Aren’t we glad that Anthopoulos left that one alone?
Back to Fister, though. “The Blue Jays will make a play for Doug Fister, I’m told,” Blair writes, and a surface glance of the situation seems to make sense. There’s some definite buy-low potential on Fister, who has been moved into a bullpen role after struggling as a starter earlier in 2015.
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What terrible timing for Fister, too, hitting that wall in a contract year after a often-fantastic beginning to his career. While Fister has topped 200.0 innings just twice in his career at age 31, he’s proven that he can be dominant when healthy. After being dealt to the Nationals in 2014, he managed a 16-6 record in just 25 starts, posting a 1.079 WHIP.
This season hasn’t just been a case of bad luck, though. Now, Fister is much more Mark Buehrle than David Price, with his fastball usually living comfortably in the high-80s. Something changed this season, however, and according to FanGraphs, his average fastball velocity has dropped 1.5 MPH. Same goes for his slider, cutter and curveball. Not good.
These regressions have brought Fister’s line-drive percentage up and produced a ground ball percentage that is well below his career average at 44.6%. He’s also allowed opposing hitters to make hard contact 29.5% of the time, up from 25.7% just one year ago. His HR/FB numbers are up, hitters are pulling more of their contact, the list goes on.
Aug 7, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals pitcher Doug Fister (C) sits in the bull pen during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Fister will be a wildcard on this free agent market, because different teams will value him at drastically different price levels. In some ways, he had been comparable to 2015’s Marco Estrada up until this season. Operating under the radar without raw and electric “stuff”, but producing very strong numbers. Now, in the eyes of some general managers, he’s damaged goods.
As is always the case in free agency, it only takes one team to fall in love. An option like Fister would clearly be a secondary plan behind David Price, and I still believe the Blue Jays will explore contract talks with Estrada when the time comes. Then again, when the Jays traded for Estrada, he was pretty flawed himself…
So this begins the very early stages of what you’ll be hearing over the next four months. Free agent rumors, speculation and potential fits. Doug Fister does make some level of sense, just like any player does for the right dollar value, but he’d be little more than a Plan B to Toronto, which makes it an unlikely fit, as one team out there will make him Plan A.