The Blue Jays have an embarrassment of riches in the rotation when everyone is healthy and performing, but that hasn’t been the case recently. The most frequent culprit has been free agent to be, Marco Estrada, who has greatly struggled in his last 4 starts, which won’t help his pending free agency case.
There will be some decisions to make in Toronto again this offseason, and the performance of the current club will have a lot to do with what direction the Blue Jays ultimately decide to go. They’ve got veterans who will be free agents at the end of the year in Francisco Liriano, Jose Bautista (if his option isn’t exercised), and their Opening Day starter, Marco Estrada.
In Estrada’s case, he signed a two year deal worth 26 million during the 2015 offseason, and he’ll hit the market again this fall at the age of 34 (his birthday is in July). He looked like he was well on his way to a multi-year deal, pitching to a 2.70 ERA through his first five starts in April, but things haven’t gone his way lately.
He still threw well in May, with a 4-1 record and a 3.49 ERA in six starts, showing moments of vulnerability, but ultimately keeping things together. That was before June began, and it’s been a disaster since the calendar turned.
The above tweet says it all, as none of the 33 year old’s starts have gone his way this month. He’s thrown just 16.1 innings in his 4 starts, and has only finished the fourth inning once. That’s an alarming thing to read, especially when you consider that Estrada was/is considered by many to be the veteran ace of this staff. Have a look for yourself:
Things looked okay for awhile on Monday night against the Rangers, but a 5-1 lead quickly turned into a 6-5 deficit, and Estrada was removed before the end of the fourth for a third time this month. Once again, the home run proved to be his undoing, as he gave up his fifth long ball of the month. Keeping the ball in the park was a major problem for Estrada earlier in his career, but he’s managed to get that under control as he’s flourished with the Blue Jays. That hasn’t been the case recently, obviously.
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As many fans ask, “what’s wrong with Marco Estrada?”, the answer is probably pretty simple. As has always been the case throughout his career, the Mexican born starter has to rely on command and changing speeds to get hitters out. When his command betrays him a bit, as it has lately, things go downhill quickly when you can’t simply blow hitters away.
He’s allowed a greater percentage of fly balls, and it’s mostly been the result of missing his spots, which he’s done a lot of in his last four outings. His velocity hasn’t been anything out of the norm, and he looks healthy, at least by the eye test. It wasn’t terribly difficult to see when his back was bugging him last year, but there haven’t been signs of trouble in that department, at least in what I’ve seen.
He’s never had a rough patch like this since joining the Blue Jays, and his timing isn’t great on a personal level, or for the club as they try to reach the elusive .500 mark.
As things currently stand for Estrada, he’s 4-5 with a 4.98 ERA through 15 starts, and those aren’t the kind of numbers that will inspire a four or five year contract, like the one he likely had in mind. The ERA has risen 1.83 points in those last four starts (3.15 on May 27th), so it’s not as bad as it looks, but it ain’t pretty either.
There’s still plenty of time for him to right the ship, and I have total faith that he’ll do just that, but there’s no doubt that these last four outings have hurt his future free agency stock. Maybe that plays in the Blue Jays favour down the line, but for now all parties would like to see him get back on track.