The Toronto Blue Jays are reportedly in contract talks with pitcher Marco Estrada on a multi-year contract that would lock him up before Friday’s deadline for him to accept or reject his qualifying offer. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports was first with the news on Wednesday night.
The general perception of Estrada’s market value has cooled since his impressive playoff performances. It was originally thought that Estrada could push the neighborhood of a $14 million annual average value on a three year contract, but now it seems more realistic for the number to come in well south of that. In fact, I’m starting to let myself believe that the final numbers on a deal could surprise some people. If it’s security that Estrada is looking for, the qualifying offer is working against him.
For a player the calibre of Chris Davis, Zack Greinke, Jason Heyward or Alex Gordon, the draft pick attached to their name in free agency is an afterthought. It will also have zero impact on the financials of their deal. For a mid-level free agent like Estrada, that’s not the case. From the standpoint of another team, it can be more attractive to take a shot at a lower-level arm, hoping for similar results while holding on to a first round draft choice and a pile of cash.
Just as the draft pick attachment works against Estrada, it works very much in favor of the Blue Jays as there would be no additional cost for retaining their own man. The timing is also ideal, as it would give Toronto a head start on the free agent market that has begun to simmer, but should still take time to reach a full boil.
One of several reasons that free agents are rarely signed out of the gates is due to these qualifying offers, as front offices need a green or red light on a pending $15.8 million hit to their payroll for that season. Inking Estrada to a comfortable multi-year deal at this stage in free agency would allow the Blue Jays to exhale (only slightly), and attack the remaining market with a greater level of focus.
In his time as general manager, Alex Anthopoulos often expressed his distaste for lengthy contract negotiations that dragged through the early and middle stages of free agency. If a $12 million salary is on the table for Player A, it hamstrings a team in their negotiations with Player B as the budget is waiting for other pending deals to reach a decision. So in adding Estrada, whether it be through an accepted qualifying offer or longer deal, Toronto puts a toe out ahead of the game.
In the situation that he decides to test the open market, of course, Toronto could still benefit from draft pick compensation, but that is not priority number one. Final word on Estrada’s decision will come down the pipe today, but this Rosenthal report is another arrow pointing in the right direction for the Jays.