Looking back at the Derek Fisher trade and how the return has played out almost four years later
6 months ago
Flashback to the middle of the 2019 season. The Toronto Blue Jays were in rebuilding mode and the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio were in the big leagues and the majority of the players from the 2015/2016 playoff runs were mostly gone, with only Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, Joe Biagini, and Justin Smoak remaining after Kevin Pillar was traded to the Giants early into the campaign.
While Pillar was the first domino to fall, Stroman was next on the chopping block, as the vocal right-hander would be traded to the New York Mets in exchange for top prospect pitchers in Anthony Kay and Simeon-Woods Richardson, with both pitchers no longer in the organization. Kay was DFA’d this past offseason after struggling to carve a spot on the big league roster while SWR was traded to the Twins at the 2021 trade deadline alongside Austin Martin in exchange for veteran right-hander José Berríos.
The next trade at the 2019 deadline took out two arms from the 2016 playoff roster, as the Jays decided to send Sanchez, Biagini, and prospect Cal Stevenson in exchange for outfielder Derek Fisher, trying to tap into the well again after acquiring outfielders Teoscar Hernández and Nori Aoki in exchange for veteran southpaw Francisco Liriano exactly two years prior.
Off the hop, the trade turned a bit sour for Jays fans, not only because the dealing of Sanchez and Biagini was another reminder of the rebuild to come, but in his first outing with the Astros, Sanchez went six innings with zero hits allowed and Biagini pitched a clean inning to help Houston win via a combined no-hitter. On the other hand, Fisher made a lasting impression when in his third appearance with the Jays, he misplayed a fly ball and took it off the face and was removed from the contest.
While a few years have passed since that deal, let’s take a look at where all four players from that deal are now.
Derek Fisher – OF
Following the trade, Fisher spent the rest of the season on the big league roster, authoring a .161/.271/.376 slash line with six home runs and a .647 OPS while spending most of his time in left field. Injuries limited him to just 16 games and 31 at-bats in the shortened 2020 campaign, with Fisher going 7 for 31 in the batter’s box with four extra-base hits and a .811 OPS. With the emergence of Hernández in right field and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. making the move to left field, Fisher failed to make the big league roster out of spring training and was DFA’d prior to the start of the season. The lefty-batter would late be traded to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Paxton Shultz.
Injuries limited Fisher with the Brewers as well, with the outfielder spending most of the season in Triple-A and making just four appearances with the Brew Crew before being DFA’d and passing through the waiver wire to Triple-A in mid-June. A free agent at the end of the 2021 season, Fisher signed a MiLB deal with the Minnesota Twins and played in 27 games for the St. Paul Saints, authoring a .158 average and a .565 OPS before being released by the Twins organization in mid-June.
Fisher has not appeared in pro ball since being released and has gone pretty radio silent since then.
Aaron Sanchez – RHP
Sanchez had one wild ride in the Blue Jays organization. A top prospect prior to his debut, Sanchez’s six years with the Jays were marred by strong outings, inconsistency, and battling injuries, most notably a blister issue that hampered his 2017 campaign. His best campaign came in 2016, where he led the AL with his 3.00 ERA while going 192 innings with a 1.167 WHIP, earning an All-Star nomination and finishing seventh in AL Cy Young voting. Overall, the right-hander would finish with a 3.96 ERA through 164 outings (92 starts) with a 4.32 FIP, a 4.0 BB/9, and a 7.2 K/9 through 571 innings.
After the trade, Sanchez made four starts for Houston before finishing the season on the IL with a torn capsule in his right shoulder that required surgery, setting him down for the 2020 season as well. The California product would sign a one-year deal with the Giants for the 2021 season, making nine appearances at the big league level to the tune of a 3.06 ERA before bicep tightness put him on the 60-day IL in early May, with San Francisco designating him in early August.
For the 2022 season, Sanchez signed a MiLB deal with the Washington Nationals and began the season in Triple-A before being called up to the Nationals roster in mid-April. The right-hander would make seven starts for the Nats, crafting an 8.33 ERA through 31 1/3 innings before DFA’d and later picked up by the Minnesota Twins, splitting time between the big league squad and St. Paul for the remainder of the season.
For the 2023 campaign, Sanchez re-signed with the Twins on a MiLB deal and has spent all season in Triple-A, currently pitching to a 4.89 ERA through nine starts, authoring a 1.777 WHIP with a 7.2 BB/9 and an 8.5 K/9 for the Saints. Given the Twins current rotation and the depth they have in the rotation ranks when looking at the top prospects, Sanchez’s route back to the big leagues is likely rooted in the bullpen for a Twins squad that is currently leading the AL Central.
Joe Biagini – RHP
The Blue Jays have a mixed history when it comes to the Rule 5 Draft, with players like Dewayne Wise, Manuel Lee, Jim Acker, Jim Gott, and Kelly Gruber spending time on the active roster and helping contribute in numerous ways. Prior to the 2016 offseason, the Jays selected Joe Biagini from the Giants organization and the right-handed reliever had a solid rookie campaign for the club, posting a 3.06 ERA with one save through 67 2/3 innings, striking out 62 batters to the tune of a 1.300 WHIP. Biagini excelled in the playoffs as well, appearing in each series for the Jays until they were eliminated in the ALCS against Cleveland, allowing zero runs through six appearances and 7 1/3 innings while striking out six compared to one walk.
That campaign would turn out to be Biagini’s best with the Jays, as he struggled over the next three seasons and was never able to find the same form as his rookie season, splitting time between the big leagues and Triple-A from 2017 to 2019. After the trade to Houston, Biagini made seven appearances for the Astros that year but was left off the playoff roster. In 2020, Biagini struggled with a shoulder injury and also allowed 10 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings of work, leading to him being DFA’d at the end of the season and electing free agency. The California product would join the Chicago Cubs organization on a MiLB deal for the 2021 season and made just one relief appearance at the big league level, spending most of the year in Triple-A.
A free agent again, Biagini re-joined the Toronto Blue Jays on a MiLB deal and started the year in Triple-A, pitching to a 3.46 ERA through 30 outings (five starts) with one save to the tune of a 1.179 WHIP. The Jays would release him halfway through the campaign and Biagini last pitched for Team Italy at the 2023 World Baseball Classic, making one relief appearance and allowing four hits and two earned runs through 1/3 of an inning.
While there hasn’t been an official statement regarding his playing status, his LinkedIn profile reads that he is a former baseball player and it appears that he likely has returned to the University of California, Davis, his former alma mater where he was studying political science.
Cal Stevenson – OF
The last part of the trade was prospect Cal Stevenson, a tenth-round pick of the Blue Jays in the 2018 MLB Draft. Stevenson was with the Dunedin Blue Jays at the time of the trade, his first full professional season, and was slashing .298/.388/.393 with four triples, five home runs, and a .781 OPS. After spending half a season with the Astros Advanced-A club, Stevenson was traded to the Oakland A’s organization as part of the trade package for reliever Austin Pruitt. Over the next two seasons, Stevenson split his time between the A’s and Tampa Bay Rays organizations, eventually making his big league debut late into the 2022 season with Oakland where he went 10 for 60 at the plate with one RBI.
Earlier this season, Stevenson was traded to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for cash considerations and split his time between Triple-A and the active roster until being DFA’d back on May 19th. With the Giants this season, Stevenson has gone hitless through nine at-bats with three walks and two strikeouts.
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