Marco Estrada started last night’s game against the Astros, and it could very well be the last game of his Blue Jays career. Despite some ups and downs, Estrada deserves to be fondly remembered in Toronto.
With just five games remaining in the 2018 regular season, there’s a very good chance that last night was the last start of Marco Estrada‘s career as a Blue Jay. It’s possible he gets the call in the last game of the regular season, but it seems likely that Monday’s game will be his final outing in Toronto.
The 35 year old is coming off of a one year, 13 million dollar contract he signed last winter, which was on the back of a two year, 26 million dollar deal he signed before the 2016 season. While it hasn’t gone the way he hoped the last couple of years, overall Estrada and the Blue Jays should both be happy with how things have gone overall over the last four years.
Estrada was acquired from the Brewers before the 2015 season in exchange for Adam Lind, a player the Blue Jays had pretty much given up on at that point. There were even reports that Estrada was the only MLB player offered in exchange for Lind at the time, and admittedly I had never even heard of the change-up artist before the trade.
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He wasn’t even supposed to be a starter in the 2015 rotation, but injuries to other rotation arms created an opportunity that he ran with. In that first season as a Blue Jay, Estrada was outstanding as he went 13-8 in 34 appearances and 28 starts, pitching to a 3.13 ERA and a 1.044 WHIP in 181 innings and even finishing 10th in Cy Young voting.
That strong performance coupled with a strong postseason showing against Texas and Kansas City earned him a spot in the rotation going forward, and a new two year contract worth more than he’d ever made in his life. He rewarded the front office’s faith in him by going 9-9, posting a 3.48 ERA, and a 1.119 WHIP in 29 starts and 176 innings. He was an All-Star that year, and once again was a key arm in the playoff rotation for the Blue Jays.
Last season was a struggle for Estrada and unfortunately this year has been even worse. He posted a 4.98 ERA in 33 starts, and entered Monday’s outing with a 5.57 ERA in 27 starts. There’s no doubt that he’s struggled with issues from his wonky back, but he’s also struggled to keep the ball in the yard. He served up 31 long balls last season, and his two more last night brings his total to 29 this year in roughly 40 less innings pitched. If this was Estrada’s final start, he’ll finish the year with 143.2 innings pitched in 28 starts.
Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler talked about Estrada and the possibility of it being his final Blue Jay outing on last night’s broadcast, and mentioned the comments made by teammate Russell Martin. The catcher correctly pointed out all the success that Estrada had in first couple of years, and said that he “hoped fans would remember the 2015-16 of the pitcher, and not this year’s performance”.
That’s pretty much how I’m looking at Estrada right now, even if it’s been frustrating to watch him struggle through the 2018 campaign. While it’s been a difficult year, you have to admire that the veteran has continued to go out on the mound, even when it’s pretty obvious that his body isn’t 100%, and hasn’t been for most of the year. After years of dealing with similar issues, and now at the age of 35, it might be the reality he faces for the remainder of his career.
Chances are that career will go on somewhere outside of Toronto, and hopefully the Mexican born right-hander can finish things on a more positive note. We definitely got to see the best of him in Toronto thus far and for a relative bargain, so even if he got paid well through a tough year in 2018, he provided plenty of value during his tenure.
For that reason any many more, I have to agree with Russell Martin that I hope fans remember the best of Estrada. All things considered he was quietly very good, and was one of the better trades made by Alex Anthopoulos in Toronto. That’s saying a lot, but I believe it’s a true statement.