After the Nationals traded for Doug Fister last winter, the team approached him and his agent about a long-term contract extension. The Nationals made an offer but the sides couldn’t agree on the terms. And, according to a person familiar with the situation, there has been no progress since, and no talks for months.
The Nationals are in an interesting position: Ten players under their control could be free agents after the 2015 season, including key players such as Fister, Denard Span, Tyler Clippard, Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann. The Nationals have tried to extend Zimmermann and Desmond in the past, but nothing materialized last winter when each player rejected an offer believed to be below market value. The Nationals remain open-minded about potential trades of any of their players with one year of control left, a move that could subtract from a 2015 team capable of contending for a World Series but would protect the future.
Although some Nationals have popped up in trade rumors — and Fister’s availability has piqued teams’ interest — it makes sense to keep the tall right-hander in Washington. Zimmermann is two years younger than Fister, more accomplished and a power pitcher, and thus more expensive. Fister is 30 and could be inked to an extension at a lower cost.
Fister remains open to staying in Washington beyond 2015. He enjoyed his first season with the Nationals, quickly melding into the clubhouse and serving as the veteran of the best starting rotation in baseball. Teammates often praised Fister’s work ethic and example, and the coaching staff respected him for sitting in on pre-series defensive meetings, which starters don’t do often, and offering suggestions.
Since the last substantive extension talks with the Nationals, Fister’s price tag has gone up. In his first season in the National League, Fister had a career year. Despite missing the first month of the season, Fister set career bests in wins (16) and ERA (2.41), both in the top 10 in the majors, along with ERA+ (155) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.08).
In six years in the majors, Fister is 60-56 with a 3.34 ERA in 155 games. He has reached the 200-inning plateau only twice in his career, but has logged at least 160 innings in five straight seasons. Because Fister is quietly consistent, averages only 88 mph on his fastball and has pitched on rotations with more high-profile names, he has been undervalued much of his career.
Should the Nationals trade Zimmermann or lose him to free agency after 2015, Fister could serve as a bridge to the next wave of young Nationals pitching prospects if inked to a long-term deal. Fister has one year of arbitration left before free agency. He made $7.2 million in 2014 and is projected to earn at least $11 million in 2015. It is unclear if and when extension talks will resume, but, if they do, the next offer will surely be higher than the last.