I've always been a Doug Fister fan and just a day after seeing J.A. Happ get $36 million, I have this feeling that he could be the biggest bargain the free agent market will see.
A player's future contract has a lot to do with what they did in their contract year.
Happ found some magic at the end of the season, pitching to a 1.85 ERA in his final 11 starts and was rewarded with a $12 million per season contract.
Fister's 2015 season was not nearly as pretty.
The soon-to-be 32-year-old went 5-7 with a 4.19 ERA in 103 innings pitched, losing his spot in the Nationals' starting rotation and missed time to due an elbow injury. In short, Fister was not the Fister that baseball had known.
From 2011 to 2014, Fister was a really good pitcher. Over that span, he worked to a 3.11 ERA and 129 ERA+, making him easily one of the better pitchers in the league.
If Fister was a free agent last offseason, he may have gotten at least $75 million.
His contract year, however, could have cost him $25 million or more. Even though pitching, especially starting pitching, gets paid quite well, it's hard to see Fister's contract surpassing $50 million.
The question becomes: Can Fister bounce back?
His decreasing fastball velocity and strikeout numbers could be an indication that he will not. However, opposing hitters hit for a .316 BABIP off him last year, a good 20 points over his career average and 18 points over the Major League average. BABIP is usually an indication of luck, which Fister clearly did not have in 2015.
Fister has always been a control artist and still showed excellent command last year, shown in his 2.1 BB/9 ratio. He gave up hits at an alarmingly high rate (10.5 H/9), yet another indication that he could bounce back.
In the end, Fister could end up signing a one-year deal (obviously not for $50 million) to rebuild his value. There is also the possibility of him signing a multi-year contract at a much lower price than what he could have received last year.
With the demand for pitching so high, Doug Fister could be free agency's biggest bargain.