Blue Jays: Marco Estrada deal answers one of biggest offseason concerns

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 05: Pitcher Marco Estrada
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 05: Pitcher Marco Estrada /

Re-signing Marco Estrada will bolster the Toronto Blue Jays 2018 rotation, but will also give the 2016 All-Star a chance to re-establish himself as the ace he’s been over the previous two seasons.

After a rough 2017, the Toronto Blue Jays are taking a chance on Marco Estrada, by signing him to a reported one year $13 million contract.

The deal was first reported by Jon Morosi of, confirmING something that had been rumoured since shortly after the non-waiver trade deadline.

The 34-year-old is having the worst season of his MLB career, with a 10-8 record and a 4.70 ERA, but there may be hope for a strong bounce back from Estrada in 2018.

Why Estrada’s important to the Jays

Even if he doesn’t return to his previous form, having a veteran arm as rotation depth will be important for Toronto if the team plans to contend next season.

Estrada has already set a career high in innings pitched and as R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle have proved in recent Blue Jays history, pitchers that can consistently pitch around 200 frames are a huge asset.

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In 2016 the Blue Jays starting pitchers had the best ERA in the AL and heading into this year were predicted to be near the top again.

Coming into 2017, Toronto had two All-Stars in Estrada and Aaron Sanchez, a 20-game winner in J.A. Happ and the always promising Marcus Stroman. Francisco Liriano had come over from Pittsburgh in a mid-season trade and was dominant in 10 games with the Jays.

The main issue was a lack of depth beyond the starting five. The Jays 2016 rotation was extremely healthy, but this year it has been anything but.

Of the 840 innings pitched by Toronto starters in 2017, only 636.2 have been pitched by those five pitchers:

  • Stroman – 196.2 IP
  • Estrada – 183.2 IP
  • Happ – 138.1 IP
  • Liriano – 82.2 IP
  • Sanchez – 36.0 IP

That means over 24 percent of the starts for the Blue Jays were made by fill-in players and none of them stepped up as a reliable replacement.

Estrada believes with the starting four of himself, Sanchez, Stroman and Happ this team can regroup and compete in 2018. As reported by Steve Buffery of the National Post, he said:

"“Just starting with our starting rotation, you have right now four guys that are guaranteed to come back, and if everybody gets healthy and we don’t have any injuries to worry about … What we did last season, we can do it all over again next season,” he said. “I’m hoping — knock on wood — everybody stays healthy and comes back ready to go because with those starting four guys we definitely have a really good chance of going deep in the playoffs.”"

Hearing the word “playoffs” is a much needed pick-me-up for a fan base that has suffered through a season, where the team was in last place the entire year.

The only question mark would be the fifth spot in the rotation -where Joe Biagini seems to have the edge. Toronto doesn’t really have any pitching prospects knocking down the door, so the durability of the big four may determine how the team fairs in 2018.

It’s a gamble worth taking

Estrada had had a great Blue Jays career heading into 2017 – an All-Star appearance last year, finishing 10th in Cy Young voting in 2015 and a combined 2.18 ERA in his six playoff games.

To say he has had a poor 2017 is somewhat of an oversimplification. It has been a tale of two seasons for the 2005 draft pick.

The season started off well for Estrada, but he then had the worst two months of his Blue Jays career in June and July:

JUNE-JULY:                       52.2 (IP)               0-5 (W-L)            7.86 (ERA)               49 (K)

REST OF SEASON:       131.0 (IP)             10-3 (W-L)           3.43 (ERA)             125 (K)

The difference in these lines would raise some flags for any pitcher. But for Estrada, who has been the model of consistency over the last two years, it seems fair to consider this two month stretch as an anomaly.

Outside of his summer time struggles, the Blue Jays righty was pretty much in line with his 2016 all star season. But Estrada has discussed his rut, explaining it was off-field issues that were negatively effecting his performance on the field:

"“These things happen, it’s unfortunate,” he said. “It was personal issues, so once that was dealt with, once I had clear head, I think everybody has seen the results ever since then.”"

By taking a chance on their former ace, the Blue Jays are risking only payroll – if he is a bust next year, all that is lost is $13 million.

When you consider Dickey was making $12 million for his lacklustre performance last year, while Liriano was earning $13 million for 2017, then the Estrada extension seems like a pretty safe bet.

The upside is Estrada could return to top-of-the-rotation form and make Toronto’s rotation a strength again.

The Blue Jays and Estrada agreed on this extension because both sides have faith in what’s possible for next year. Again reported by Buffery, Ross Atkins praised his newly inked starter:

"“I think when you step back from Marco objectively, it comes down to fastball command, we’re seeing that again now,” Toronto’s GM said. “There are no indicators that we could find that would suggest that he should be any less effective then he’s been there.“And one of the things that’s most exciting about Marco is his ability to be the exact same or better in playoff scenarios.”"

Next: Jays should take one more swing in 2018

Do you agree with the decision to re-sign Estrada? What kind of success are you prediction for the Blue Jays rotation in general next year? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.