Acquired in July from the Astros, Derek Fisher didn’t make a great first impression on the Blue Jays. He’s also out of minor league options, so what’s the plan for him going forward?
The Blue Jays made a few tough decisions in advance of the July 31st trade deadline last year, and I doubt that any were more difficult than the trade Ross Atkins made with the Houston Astros at the last minute.
The Jays sent Aaron Sanchez, Joe Biagini, and a minor leaguer named Cal Stevenson to the Astros in exchange for Derek Fisher, a talented outfielder who hadn’t been able to secure a starting spot in Houston as they’ve been a contender over the last couple of years. At the time it felt like the Blue Jays were selling very low on Sanchez, but hindsight is also 20/20, and I don’t know that I’d argue the same point today.
As for Fisher, there was a fair bit of upside to be excited about upon his arrival, but unfortunately that didn’t translate to the diamond while in a Blue Jays’ uniform, at least not yet. In 40 games with the Blue Jays he slashed just .161/.271/.376 with six home runs and 12 RBI over 93 at-bats. The power potential flashed at times, but he also struck out a whopping 43 times during that short stint, taking just 14 walks.
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If there’s a franchise that should believe in the “late-bloomer” concept, it’s the Blue Jays, especially after enjoying the talents of Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Josh Donaldson, none of whom started to thrive until their late 20’s. However, Fisher’s case is complicated, especially because he’s out of minor league options, and the Blue Jays really don’t have a place to put him.
In theory they could start him in centre field due to his above-average speed, but he struggled on defence last year and also has a pretty weak throwing arm. He’s better suited to an outfield corner, but the Blue Jays already have Lourdes Gurriel Jr. locked down in left field, and would prefer to use Randal Grichuk in right rather than up the middle. There’s also the presence of Teoscar Hernandez, who is far more advanced at this stage than Fisher, and other depth outfield options like Anthony Alford, Billy McKinney, Jonathan Davis, and more.
There have been plenty of reports that the Blue Jays are still interested in a centre field upgrade, such as the rumours tying them to Shogo Akiyama. If they were to land him or another upgrade up the middle, my guess is they would have little choice but to either try to trade him, or perhaps even have to move on. Next year’s bench is going to need a back-up catcher (McGuire), someone capable of playing shortstop (Urena?), and likely Brandon Drury, so I’m guessing there will only be room for one extra outfielder. If Hernandez spends some time at DH or even at first base, then maybe they can make it work, but it’s going to be tough to find room on the 25-man roster.
My guess is that Atkins and company won’t be ready to write him off after just 40 games, but we’ll see what roster room allows. If he does make the team, he’s going to have to prove his worth early on, otherwise the Blue Jays may have no choice but to move on. That’s unfortunate when you consider the package the Blue Jays sent to acquire him, but that’s how these things go sometimes, and it hasn’t exactly worked out so well for the Astros either.