Should Blue Jays explore re-signing Marco Estrada?


When the Blue Jays dealt Adam Lind to the Milwaukee Brewers for swingman Marco Estrada, it seemed fairly inconsequential. An undesirable salary and clubhouse influence had been shed for a flawed veteran pitcher who would sit near the bottom of the 25-man roster, but in a welcome turn, I’ve been forced to eat my words on a weekly basis.

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Estrada has brought his home runs back to a more manageable level and mystified opposing hitters with a dominant changeup that buoys the impact of his pedestrian fastball velocity. In 28 appearances this season, including 22 starts, the right-hander owns an 11-8 record with an incredible 3.16 ERA. His WHIP of 1.082 sits well below his career average, and while his career year could be due for some subtle regression, it’s hard to imagine this rotation without Estrada.

As a solidifying force in the middle of the rotation, Estrada has allowed the Blue Jays to cycle through options in the fifth slot while being flexible in their usage of R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle. With David Price now on board and the organization likely to align him with game one of the playoffs, Estrada continues to offer a reliable spot for the other starters to rotate around.

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It’s always fascinating to look at the butterfly effect of a player’s presence, as well. If Estrada had not produced like this in 2015, would the team have thrust Daniel Norris into a starting role full time? Perhaps Matt Boyd would have gotten a longer look. If any of this happens, how does it impact their trade value, and is David Price still a Blue Jay? It’s a winding road to go down, but one worth considering.

Estrada is making $3.9 million this season, and with a career earnings of just over $10 million, he’ll be right to recognize this as his prime free agent opportunity. He represents one of the more difficult free agent cases to pinpoint in terms of contract value, but a two year deal in the neighbourhood of $12-$15 million should work, just for the sake of conversation.

There’s an argument to be made that returning Estrada for a lower value and letting Dickey walk could be considered, but that’s a lot of moving pieces. With Buehrle out the door, let’s assume that Dickey returns to a rotation featuring Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison. One of Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna could be stretched into a starter next year, as well, but given the uncertainties surrounding that transition and Hutch’s 2015, there may still be room for Estrada.

This season has shown us, yet again, that injuries happen. That opening day starters can spend five months as your rotation’s weakest link. While I’d love a big splash for Price to make Estrada’s return unnecessary, if Alex Anthopoulos does not have the finances committed elsewhere after the first few days of free agency, why not Estrada?

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