The Blue Jays are a long way from focusing on offseason plans just yet, though the club “will make a play for” free agent righty Doug Fister this winter, Sportsnet’s Jeff Blair reports. This wouldn’t be the first time that GM Alex Anthopoulos has shown interest in Fister, as the Jays explored a deal when Fister was still with the Tigers in the 2013-14 offseason prior to Fister’s eventual trade to Washington.
Of course, Fister’s stock was much higher two winters ago, as the right-hander is hitting the open market on the heels of his worst season in five years. Fister posted a 4.19 ERA, 2.63 K/BB rate and 5.5 K/9 over 103 innings for the Nationals, losing his starting rotation spot in the process. (Fister’s overall stat line was boosted by his stint in the bullpen, as he had a 2.12 ERA over 17 relief innings as opposed to a 4.60 ERA as a starter.)
It’s possible health could have played a role in Fister’s problems, as he spent a month on the DL with forearm tightness. Both before and after his injury, however, there were signs of struggle. Fister’s walk rate (2.10) and homer rate (12%) jumped to their highest levels since 2009, while his ground ball rate dropped to 44.6%, his lowest such number also since 2009. This was a notable decline for a pitcher who relies on grounders to offset his lack of strikeouts, and the Nats’ overall shaky infield defense also didn’t help in this regard.
Mark Buehrle is expected to retire and both David Price and Marco Estrada could leave in free agency, so the Jays could have multiple rotation openings behind Marcus Stroman, R.A. Dickey (whose club option is likely to be exercised) and Drew Hutchison, and Hutchison’s own spot is far from secure given his rough season. If Fister can get back to his 2011-14 form, the 31-year-old’s ground-ball tendencies would be a good fit at the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, particularly with a better defensive infield backing him up.