The Blue Jays are showing “strong interest” in Brewers right-hander Mike Fiers, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Nothing’s close between the two sides at this time, Rosenthal notes, and the Brewers aren’t especially motivated to part ways with the righty.
Milwaukee’s reluctance to trade Fiers stems from the fact that he’s not yet arbitration-eligible. Fiers is earning $513K in 2015 — a no doubt appealing fact to a Blue Jays team that has roughly $5-8MM worth of payroll wiggle room, per multiple reports. Fiers wouldn’t even be arbitration eligible until after the 2016 season, and he can be controlled through 2019 via the arb process. That team control is one of the reasons that Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet listed him as a potential fit for the Blue Jays last week.
Despite his controllable nature, Fiers isn’t particularly young. The former 22nd-round pick didn’t make his big league debut until the age of 26, and he didn’t see any significant MLB action until his age-27 season. As such, he’s already 30 years old. His status as a late bloomer notwithstanding, Fiers has been more or less effective as a big league starter. In 330 2/3 innings dating back to 2012, he has a 3.62 ERA with a 334-to-102 K/BB ratio (9.1 K/9, 2.8 BB/9).
Upon first glance, Fiers would seem to be an imperfect fit for Toronto’s Rogers Centre. He’s a right-hander that averages just 89 mph on his fastball and is considered an extreme fly-ball pitcher. However, I had similar questions about the fit when the Jays acquired Fiers’ former teammate, Marco Estrada, this past offseason. Estrada has been outstanding for the Blue Jays in 2015, and while that certainly doesn’t mean that Fiers would enjoy similar success, Fiers hasn’t been as homer-prone as Estrada over the course of his career and in general fits into a similar profile.
According to Rosenthal, the Brewers would want multiple pieces as a return in any trade of Fiers. He’s an atypical trade candidate due to the four remaining seasons of control he brings, but the more traditional trade pieces in Milwaukee’s rotation don’t currently hold much appeal. Kyle Lohse, a free agent at season’s end, has struggled greatly in 2015. So, too, has the now-injured Matt Garza, who comes with two more years of a $12.5MM salary.
Should Toronto elect to get more serious about its pursuit, the team has a nice stable of prospects that are close to the Majors as well as some high-upside prospects further down the pipeline. GM Alex Anthopoulos has mentioned in the past that he’s willing to deal from his big league roster as well. This is purely speculative, but with Francisco Rodriguez and Neal Cotts pitching well, perhaps the Blue Jays would be interested in securing a package consisting of Fiers and a bullpen upgrade. I’ve also previously opined that the Brewers should be open to trading a controllable relief arm such as Will Smith.