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Marco Estrada is Another Gamble Worth Taking for the Blue Jays

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If you had asked me in mid-July whether the Toronto Blue Jays should consider bringing back Marco Estrada, I would’ve said “unequivocally no”.

In fact, I wrote the Blue Jays should take whatever they could get for Estrada and his counterpart Francisco Liriano. Just prior the non-waiver trade deadline, Estrada rode a 10-game stretch when he pitched to an 8.87 ERA and threw five or less innings in all but three starts during that stretch.

Something wasn’t right about Estrada.



Many had assumed that being a fly ball pitcher in a fly ball ballpark finally caught up to Estrada, or the book was officially out on Estrada and his run of dominance had come to an end.

In retrospect, those reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. In fact, things have turned around so drastically that Jon Morosi reports the Blue Jays and Estrada have come to an agreement on a contract extension for the 2018 season.

Interesting phrasing on this previous tweet by Morosi, indicating Estrada may have some sort of vesting option for an additional year (or more).

On the whole, Estrada may not have been as electric as he was during his 2015 and 2016 campaigns with the Blue Jays, but this is absolutely worth taking another gamble on Estrada.

For a team which saw its starting rotation depth pushed to the limit – a total of 14 starting pitchers take the ball this year – the Blue Jays need as many bodies back next year as they can afford. Someone like Estrada with big league pedigree can be a huge asset for the Blue Jays.

Especially if the club felt like that 10-game stretch for Estrada from June to late July was an aberration and not a sign of things to come. Now it makes sense why the Jays and Estrada were talking contract extension rather than dealing the veteran starter at the deadline.

For those looking for the simple explanation behind Estrada’s mid-season struggles, Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star spoke to Estrada and he revealed how the possibility of being trade took its toll on him.



“I had other issues going on that aren’t baseball related”, Estrada also said to Griffin.

 
Add it all up, and it’s no wonder why Estrada didn’t look like himself on the mound for an eight-week period. The stress of being brought up in trade rumours combined with whatever else was going on at home had an adverse affect on Estrada, as it would with anybody.

By bringing back Estrada, this means the Blue Jays don’t have to wade into the free agent pool and overpay a starting pitcher to come to Toronto. I’d say Estrada’s deal with the Blue Jays is fair market value; he made $14.5 million this season and $13 million seems like a fair amount to entice him to stick around for 2018.

As with any pitcher, it’s a gamble; but this is one worthwhile taking for the Blue Jays. Estrada is another veteran starter on a staff which was devoid of consistent starting pitching. He might only come back as the number three or four starter on the staff next year, but if Estrada is the Blue Jays’ fourth best starter in 2018, then they’ve done pretty well for themselves.

One might think there isn’t much upside to re-signing a starting pitcher entering his age-34 season, but Estrada presents an intriguing option for the Blue Jays’ starting rotation next year.

If Estrada truly turned the corner at the trade deadline, he may just carry over this mid-season renaissance into 2018.

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez “mine” incident. He’ll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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