Article Written by Adam Corsair (@ACorsair21)
With about half of the Jays' starting rotation being on the DL for the time being, coupled with the scare Marcus Stroman gave us during his last start against the Yankees, it's obvious that the team is in need of assistance to weather the storm. As it currently stands, the Jays are giving Joe Biagini the opportunity to start in today's game against the Rays, though I wouldn't rely on this being a longterm thing. You may have heard me rant about how I think it would be best for Biagini to maintain his bullpen role, as I believe a solid and reliable setup man coming in relief during the 7th and 8th innings are a bit more difficult to find than a 5th starter. Once you recognize the struggles that Jason Grilli is having, it's not hard to see that the bullpen is quite thin and dipping your hand into that pocket to fill the starting rotation's pocket may not be the best of ideas.
However, I understand that the Jays don't currently have better internal options that they feel confident in, so I suppose it's fair to come back at me with "Well, what else are they supposed to do?!" That's fair, when you are only considering internal options. However, once you start to explore the external options that are available, things open up quite a bit. Enter the Doug Fister conversation.
Now, in fairness, this was discussed about a month ago on Jays Journal in an article written by Brendan Panikkar, as he was able to recognize this option far before it became a "thing" (gotta give credit to where credit is due). It gained a little more traction today, as it was reported by Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish that the Jays were among 4 teams that watched Fister throw on Thursday, while the Giants had also watched him prior to. Being the top free agent pitcher available, it's easy to have the knee-jerk reaction of urging the Jays to sign him to a major league deal and get him on the mound ASAP to help stop the bleeding. But when you think about the longterm, it's not that easy.
Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad idea at all for the Jays to sign someone like Fister; especially if he acted as the 4th of 5th starter, if we only think about the present. His most recent numbers from last year aren't even that bad, either. During his time with Houston, Fister put up an ERA of 4.64, starting 32 games for the club, winning 12 of them (losing 13), pitching just over 180 innings, offering 115 strikeouts, 62 walks, and 195 hits. I suppose the hesitation surrounding a deal being offered would more than likely be the terms, and not the asking price. It's not hard to imagine that Fister would desire a major league deal, guaranteeing him a spot in the starting rotation of whichever team he signs with. This is where it gets a bit murky with the Jays.
If the injuries that are currently plaguing Happ and Sanchez were more severe than we currently understand them to be, and they were out for an indefinite or prolonged period of time, I could see why the Jays would want to sign someone like Fister quickly. However, the latest on Happ and Sanchez is that both are trending upwards towards a return, as Sanchez is scheduled for a bullpen session today and Happ feels "encouraged" after a throwing session at 90 feet on level ground. If we are to believe that Sanchez could rejoin the club next weekend (as is the goal, according to the previously linked article) and Happ may not be that far behind, it leads to the question of where Fister would fit then. Keegan Matheson puts it best in his tweet regarding Fister -
I mean, yeah.
Look, if Fister was cool with taking a minor league deal in which he was willing to be flexible with several trips to up and down from Toronto to Buffalo, then I would be with you scratching my head wondering why the Jays hadn't signed him already. But given that the Jays were one of four teams that watched him throw, along with how the Giants watched a throwing session of his previously, and given how the Mets' (also one of the four teams) rotation is in big trouble (Matt Harvey, anyone?) it's easy to conclude that the Jays would end up in a bidding war for Fister. Thus, a more concrete and longterm opportunity may be offered that the Jays may not be able to match (and, let's face it, probably wouldn't match). Again, I don't think it's a matter of dollars, but more of a guaranteed role on a major league club. Once Happ and Sanchez are healthy and ready to go, the Jays would be left dealing with how Fister would fit with the team, as all five of the starting rotation spots would be filled (please don't start suggesting that Liriano could go to the bullpen. Just don't.). Why would Fister join a club to inevitably deal with this uncertainty when he could sign with a club and have a role that he can ride with? Given the desperation that some teams have for starting pitching, it's not difficult to see that Fister would more or less be in the driver's seat and wouldn't settle for anything less than a spot in the starting rotation of a major league club for the remainder of the season. I don't think the Jays would be willing to offer that sort of certainty.
Again, it's not a bad idea if Happ or Sanchez were out for a considerable or indeterminate amount of time. But if ifs and buts were candy and nuts it'd be Christmas everyday. Although it's fun to think about, I don't see Fister signing with the Jays.
But I've been wrong before.
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