Quickly following the end of their 2014 season, the Toronto Blue jays procured the services of Marco Estrada in a trade for Adam Lind with the Brewers. The trade, at the time, just seemed like the Blue Jays were adding bullpen depth, but things changed quickly. Many feared Estrada’s astronomical amount of home runs allowed and were reluctant to the thoughts of him pitching in a Rogers Centre rotation. People were also wondering if trading the left-handed bat of Adam Lind was wise for the righty-heavy club.
Estrada was given a chance in the starting rotation in May once the Daniel Norris experiment proved unfruitful. Estrada quickly quieted the critics and posted solid outings to get started. Through his first 5 starts he did not allow more then 4 earned runs in a start and continued to pitch further into games each outing. In the month of June, Estrada showed why he should be considered the Jays fill-in ace at several points in the year. In two consecutive shutdown outings, he would only allow 3 total hits.
The first of those was a 7.0 inning one-hitter against the Orioles. The following game against the Rays, Estrada was simply dominant. He was perfect through 8.1 innings until a Logan Forsythe dribbler to 3rd would break the Rays into the hit column. Estrada posted a 13-8 record through 181 innings with a 3.13 ERA. Those would all be career-best marks for Estrada, who also punched out 131 batters. This incredible season would go onto raise Estrada’s WAR to 1.8 from -0.1 the season before.
Estrada’s excellence did not stop once the regular season ended however, he would go on to be one of Toronto’s most clutch performers this postseason. In his first playoff start against the Rangers he was masterful and kept the Blue Jays alive to fight another day. He threw 6.1 innings and allowed only 1 run on 5 hits. The Blue Jays would rally and beat the Rangers to move on to the ALCS where Estrada got the first start in the series.
In Kansas City, Estrada battled with the Royals lineup and held them to 3 runs through 5.1 innings. This would not be enough as the Jays offense could not solve the Royals pitching during the game. In game 5, Estrada got the start again and was downright nasty. He would pitch 7.2 innings and allow only 3 hits. The lone mistake he made through the outing was knocked over the fence by Salvador Perez. This win kept the Jays dug in as a thorn in the side of the Royals and kept the series going.
Marco Estrada has proven that he is a legitimate force to be reckoned with on the mound. His changeup may be considered one of the better ones in the game and complements his other pitches very well. Estrada will be a solid part of a pitching staff as he continues to learn his craft. Pairing Estrada with Dioner Navarro was a match made in heaven for John Gibbons. Estrada’s numbers improved continuously as the relationship formed a solid battery that kept the Blue Jays in many games. Estrada only allowed more then 3 runs in 5 of his 28 starts.
Estrada’s talents may be heading else where. He is scheduled to become a free agent and will have a great market after a career year. He is currently 32 and will be 33 in July. Will his age play into the team’s decision as they attempt to resign him? The hope. at the moment, is to resign him and hold together a solid pitching staff. The cost to get him back in a Blue Jays uniform may be expensive, however.
Estrada may not post another career high season, but many do not see a huge regression in his near future. Estrada has figured out what he has needed to do to take his pitching to the next level. He is going to be a valued free agent target by many teams looking for clutch performers. His repertoire will keep hitters guessing and the solid changeup will keep his fastball looking much faster than the reality of 90 MPH. Look for Estrada to sign a moderate contract with a contending team looking for middle of the rotation depth. He proved that he can be a key player for a contending team and perform when the heat is on.