With another gem hurled on Sunday, Marco Estrada is solidifying himself as an ace level pitcher prior to re-entering free agency this offseason. He signed a 2 year, 26 million dollar deal with the Jays prior to the start of the 2016 season.
You just never know what you’re getting in a trade sometimes, and one of the best examples in recent Blue Jays memory would be acquiring Marco Estrada back in the 2014 offseason in exchange for Adam Lind.
At the time, Lind had worn out his welcome with the Blue Jays’ brass, as they were looking to offload his salary and simultaneously bringing some fresh faces to the lineup and the clubhouse in Toronto. They were reports that the Brewers were the only team to offer a major league body, which ended up being Estrada.
At the time, you couldn’t fault the Brewers for their lack of faith in the Mexican right-hander, as he had just struggled through the 2014 season in the National League, splitting time between starting and being in the bullpen. He threw 150.1 innings that season, starting 18 games and finishing with an ERA of 4.36. The most troubling stat though, was his NL leading 29 home runs allowed.
At the time, I personally wasn’t pleased about the idea of shipping off Lind, especially for someone who would slot in as the long man in the bullpen in a best case scenario. However, Estrada would take advantage of some early injuries to the rotation, getting his chance in the second month of the season, and hasn’t looked back since.
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Using arguably baseball’s best changeup, Estrada has transformed himself into a legitimate ace, getting the ball for the Blue Jays on Opening Day this year, and also in the playoffs last season. He’s become John Gibbons‘ most trusted starter, and with sound reason. He’s just a really good pitcher.
As we all remember, Estrada re-upped with the Blue Jays after the 2015 season, signing a 2 year, 26 million dollar deal that comes to an end at the conclusion of the current campaign. When he entered free agency prior to 2015, there were still plenty of questions about whether he could keep up the new level of performance. Those questions should be long gone now.
For the 2016 All-Star, the only real hesitation for teams in free agency will be his health, which hasn’t been an area of concern for him yet this season. He’s struggled with back issues for awhile now, but if he can go through the 2017 without a stint on the disabled list, he should add an extra year or two to his next contract.
The Blue Jays are going to have a decision to make when that time comes, and it may hinge on what kind of year they ultimately end up having. If the Blue Jays are able to contend, Estrada could be the perfect type of veteran to keep around and help guide a young and talented pitching staff. However, it’s just as likely that he becomes far too expensive once he’s on the open market. He will be joined by fellow Blue Jay Francisco Liriano as a free agent, so the Jays will have a couple spots in their rotation to think about, one way or another.
With the arsenal that Estrada relies on, it’s entirely possible that he could continue his elite production over the next several years. His fastball rarely touches 90, so losing velocity shouldn’t be a concern as long as his continues to get the separation between the pitch and his dynamic change-up.
The other thought? Estrada could be an excellent trade candidate for the Jays, assuming they aren’t in the thick of the race in July. It wouldn’t preclude them from bringing him back in free agency either, as the Yankees did with Aroldis Chapman this offseason, so the rumour mill surrounding the beloved Blue Jays ace is definitely something to monitor in the coming months.