Marco Estrada Rumors

Free Agent Stock Watch: Marco Estrada

It took only a month for the Blue Jays to elevate Marco Estrada from rotation depth to full-time starter.  After Daniel Norris‘ early struggles got him demoted in early May, Estrada stepped into the open rotation spot and has quietly delivered some quality numbers.  Estrada has a 3.18 ERA, 6.78 K/9, 2.93 K/BB rate over 147 1/3 innings, highlighted by no-hit bids in consecutive June starts.  This solid season couldn’t have come at a better time for Estrada as he prepares to hit the open market this winter.

It was a little under 14 months ago that Estrada was losing a starting job, as the Brewers demoted him to the bullpen after he posted a 4.96 ERA and a whopping 27 home runs over his first 107 innings of the 2014 season.  MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes saw Estrada as a borderline non-tender candidate last winter, but the Jays agreed to a one-year, $3.9MM deal after acquiring him from Milwaukee in exchange for Adam Lind.  Despite moving to a hitter-friendly AL ballpark in the wake of a season that saw him devastated by the long ball, Estrada has posted a career-low 8.1% homer rate in 2015, well below his 12.1% mark he posted from 2008-14.

Marco EstradaAdvanced metrics, however, don’t paint nearly as flattering a picture of Estrada’s performance this season.  The low strikeout rate, only a 32.2% grounder rate, a .225 BABIP and 77% strand rate all add up to an unimpressive trio of ERA indicators — 4.28 FIP, 4.89 xFIP, 4.58 SIERA.  Estrada’s K/9 has steadily dropped in each of the last four seasons and his current 6.78 mark would be the lowest of his career.

Estrada’s success might go beyond just some batted-ball luck.  For starters, he is widely regarded as possessing one of the game’s best changeups.  Estrada throws his signature pitch 28.5% of the time and at an average speed (78.7 mph) over 10 mph slower than his 89.3 mph fastball, an unusually large velocity drop that creates all sorts of difficulty for batters.  Since the start of the 2011 season, Estrada has the lowest line drive rate (18.1%) of any pitcher in baseball with at least 600 innings pitched, so his low BABIP number both this season and over his career (.276 prior to 2015) can partially be explained by the fact that hitters simply have trouble making solid contact with Estrada’s arsenal.

It’s worth noting that, going into 2014, Estrada was considered by some to be a possible breakout star following two strong seasons for Milwaukee.  Estrada’s agents at TWC Sports will likely point to 2014 as the outlier of the righty’s four most recent seasons due to the spike in home runs.  If Estrada can hold his own (2014 excepted) in the likes of Miller Park and Rogers Centre, it could be argued that he could be even more effective in a less-notorious hitters’ park given how he limits hard contact.

This winter’s free agent class is heavy with top- and front-of-the-rotation arms, and Estrada’s market will further diminish due to the fact that he turns 33 in July 2016.  A three-year contract is probably stretching it for a pitcher that old, though it could be argued that Estrada has the type of pitching style that will age well.

I can see Estrada landing a two-year deal in the $20MM range, perhaps with an option added.  It’s hard to find comparable contracts given Estrada’s somewhat unique career history, though he could be seen as something of a blend of Carlos Villanueva (a swingman) and Scott Feldman (a non-strikeout pitcher coming to free agency fairly late), with Estrada falling between Villanueva and Feldman in terms of being an established starter.  Villanueva signed a two-year, $10MM free agent deal with the Cubs after the 2012 season and Feldman inked a three-year, $30MM deal with the Astros after 2013, so a two-year/$20MM projection for Estrada splits that difference exactly.

It’s possible Toronto could look to bring him back since David Price may leave in free agency and Mark Buehrle may retire, though the team hopes to have a healthy Marcus Stroman and a more seasoned Aaron Sanchez in the 2016 rotation.  It’s probably unlikely the Jays make Estrada a qualifying offer since they wouldn’t be keen on paying him roughly $15.7-$16MM on a one-year deal if he accepts.  While Estrada is probably looking for multi-year security for his first dip into free agency, it’s not out of the question that he would be the first player to accept a qualifying offer if the Blue Jays did offer one.  If Estrada and his agents felt having draft pick compensation attached would severely harm his market (a likely scenario), he could take the QO, still score a nice one-year payday and stay in a familiar situation with a strong lineup and defense.

Presuming he doesn’t have the qualifying offer hanging over him, Estrada could get a lot of interest as an under-the-radar choice for a team that misses out on the big names in the first or second tier of free agent arms.  His price tag should be reasonable enough that small or mid-market teams could get into the mix, as well as larger-market teams looking for help at the back of their rotations.

Photo courtesy of Gregory Fisher/USA Today Sports Images

AL East Notes: Steinbrenner, Tillman, Matusz, Norris

Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner covered a number of topics in a recent chat with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Among other things, Steinbrenner credited the front office with having “better drafts of late,” naming prospects Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge as some of the players to show promise. He also addressed the team’s offseason spending, which — while still substantial — was not as extraordinary as it has been at times in the past. Steinbrenner noted that the team still put out a lot of money on the international market even as it missed on Yoan Moncada. He also gave some thoughts on the team’s future intentions in free agency: “I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”

Here are some more links from the AL East:

  • The Orioles continue to discuss contractual matters with starter Chris Tillman even after agreeing to an arbitration salary for 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this year that the sides have “mutual interest” in an extension. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined his extension case.
  • Meanwhile, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz has seen his name come up in trade rumors. After tossing four scoreless frames today, he acknowledged the chatter, as’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Matusz is still hoping to line up a starting role, but says he is most focused on providing value in any capacity. “I mean, it’s no secret. I’m well aware of talks and things going on,” said Matusz regarding the possibility of a deal. “But for me all I can control is what I can control. To be able to go out and pitch and get extended and throw all four pitches and mix. Be able to pitch my game is really what it’s all about.”
  • Young lefty Daniel Norris seems to have all but established himself as the Blue Jays‘ fifth starter, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. While veteran Marco Estrada is still considered part of the competition, Kennedy says that it would take a major change to move Norris out of the role now. Both Norris and fellow youngster Aaron Sanchez would stand to put themselves on track to hit arbitration eligibility in 2018 before qualifying for free agency in the 2021 season, if they can hold onto their big league roster spots for all or most of 2015. (Norris 29 days of big league service at present, while Sanchez has 69 days.)

AL East Notes: Victorino, Pedroia, Pentecost, Blue Jays, ARod

Red Sox manager John Farrell says the club will start veteran Shane Victorino in right field if he’s healthy, tweets Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. Farrell added that Victorino is “full go,” indicating that only a setback could change those plans. With Hanley Ramirez the obvious starter in left field, that could mean Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo will compete for the center field job. Others like Allen Craig, Jackie Bradley, Brock Holt, and Daniel Nava appear thoroughly blocked in the outfield. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • Dustin Pedroia is healthy and ready to go, reports Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston. My take: a healthy Pedroia means that Betts and Holt are also blocked in the infield. Should everybody remain healthy, some kind of trade looks all but inevitable. Several players like Betts, Castillo, and Holt still have options, so the club can stow some major league quality talent at Triple-A if necessary.
  • The Rays lost great talent this offseason, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Executive Andrew Friedman tops the list of 13 impactful losses. His departure is mitigated by the presence of Matt Silverman. Rounding out the top five poignant losses include Ben Zobrist, Joe Maddon, Joel Peralta, and bench coach Dave Martinez.
  • Blue Jays top draft pick Max Pentecost has undergone shoulder surgery, reports Ben Nicholson-Smith of Dr. James Andrews performed the procedure. Pentecost, a catcher, is expected to resume throwing in about three months.
  • The Blue Jays continue to be faced with three big questions, writes Gregor Chisholm of They include the identity of their closer, second baseman, and fifth starter. Brett Cecil and Aaron Sanchez are expected to compete for ninth inning duties, although Sanchez could factor in the rotation battle too. Other candidates to start include Marco Estrada and prospect Daniel Norris. Second base will probably go to Maicer Izturis, Ryan Goins, or prospect Devon Travis.
  • The Yankees are right to allow beleaguered veteran Alex Rodriguez to attend camp, writes Jon Heyman of It’s surprising to see other writers suggest the club swallow the $61MM remaining on Rodriguez’s contract without at least giving him a chance to provide some value. If he fails to remain healthy, the club can also recoup part of the money via insurance.

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Friday

With the deadline to exchange arbitration figures set for noon CT, there figure to be a large number of agreements to avoid arb today, as there were yesterday. All arbitration agreements can be followed using MLBTR’s Arbitration Tracker, and we’ll keep track of today’s smaller agreements in this post, with all projections coming courtesy of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz

  • Righty Henderson Alvarez agreed to a $4MM deal with the Marlins, Jon Heyman of reported earlier today on Twitter. Alvarez had been projected to earn $4.5MM after putting up a huge 187-inning, 2.65 ERA campaign entering his first season of arb eligibility.
  • The Athletics have agreed to a $1.4MM deal with righty Ryan Cook that includes,’s Jane Lee reports on Twitter. Cook gets a slight increase over the $1.3MM he had been projected to earn. Oakland has also inked outfielder Sam Fuld to a $1.75MM deal, per Mike Perchik of WAPT (via Twitter). He too lands just above his projection, which was for $1.6MM.
  • Outfielder Collin Cowgill avoided arbitration with the Angels for $995K,’s Alden Gonzalez tweets. He was projected to earn $900K.
  • Righties David Carpenter and Nathan Eovaldi both have deals with the Yankees, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports on Twitter. Carpenter will earn about $1.3MM while Eovaldi will take home $3.3MM
  • The Rockies have a deal in place with lefty Rex Brothers, tweets’s Thomas Harding. Brothers was projected to earn $1.3MM but will take home $1.4MM, Harding adds via Twitter.
  • ESPN Chicago’s Jesse Rogers reports that the Cubs have settled with both Travis Wood and Luis Valbuena (Twitter links). Wood will receive $5.686MM — a bit north of his $5.5MM projection, while Valbuena will earn $4.2MM, per Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald (on Twitter). Valbuena was projected to earn $3.1MM.
  • Mike Perchick of WAPT in New Jersey has a wave of arbitration agreements, starting with the Astros and Hank Conger settling on a $1.075MM, which is just $25K behind Swartz’s projection (Twitter link).
  • Also via Perchick, the Athletics and Brett Lawrie settled on a $1.925MM contract (Twitter links). Lawrie, who had been projected at $1.8MM, was acquired by Oakland in the Josh Donaldson blockbuster.
  • Rockies backstop Michael McKenry will earn $1.0876MM in 2015, via Perchick. McKenry was projected by Swartz to earn $1.5MM.
  • Michael Pineda and the Yankees settled on a $2.1MM salary for the upcoming season, Perchick tweets, which is a direct match with Swartz’s projection.
  • Domonic Brown and the Phillies settled on a one-year pact worth $2.6MM, via Perchick, which represents a difference of just $100K between Swartz’s projection and the actual figure. Jim Salisbury of tweets that Ben Revere has avoided arbitration as well, and the club now announces that he’ll earn $4.1MM — $100K north of his $4MM projection.
  • Red Sox setup man Junichi Tazawa agreed to a $2.25MM payday, according to Perchick. Swartz had pegged him for a $2MM contract.


Blue Jays, Brewers Swap Adam Lind, Marco Estrada

The Brewers have acquired 1B/OF Adam Lind from the Blue Jays, Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish tweets.’s Ben Nicholson-Smith initially reported the two sides were close to a deal. The Jays will receive righty Marco Estrada in return, Andrew Walker of tweets.

USATSI_8030089_154513410_lowresThe Blue Jays exercised Lind’s $7.5MM option on Lind earlier today, and Lind’s contract also includes a 2016 option for $8MM or a $500K buyout. Even though the Jays picked up the option, there were rumors they might trade Lind. Lind hit .321/.381/.479 in 290 plate appearances this season, but the Jays’ acquisition of another lefty first baseman, Justin Smoak, last week was a possible indication that they were planning for Lind’s departure.

The Brewers had a need at first base, and Lind will presumably take most of the at-bats there. He’s below average defensively at any position, but he should be able to make up for that with his hitting. At age 31, there isn’t much reason to expect a steep decline from his .273/.336/.450 career numbers, although a repeat of his 2014 offensive performance is perhaps unlikely.

Lind is a career .212/.257/.331 hitter against lefties, so the Brewers will surely use him in a platoon, possibly with someone like Jason Rogers or with another outside addition. As Brewers GM Doug Melvin points out (via Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel on Twitter), though, the NL Central is heavy on right-handed starting pitching. The main Brewers 2014 first basemen, lefty Lyle Overbay and righty Mark Reynolds, are both set to become free agents.

Estrada posted a 4.36 ERA with 7.6 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 for the Brewers in 2014. He’s entering his last season of arbitration eligibility (in which he’s projected to make $4.7MM) before he can become a free agent. He lost his job in the Brewers’ rotation in July, then pitched significantly better down the stretch as a reliever. He’s a fly ball pitcher and he isn’t a hard thrower, which led to 29 home runs allowed last season. Still, his other peripherals are solid, particularly if he can revert to his 2013 numbers, when he posted 8.3 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9. The Blue Jays currently appear mostly set in their rotation, particularly after picking up J.A. Happ‘s option last night, so Estrada could be ticketed for the bullpen.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Brewers Notes: Lucroy, Ramirez, Nelson, Estrada

Today is Father’s Day and to celebrate has profiled the father-son bond for one player on each of the 30 clubs. Carlos Gomez, who signed his first professional contract on Father’s Day, is featured in the Brewers’ vignette telling Adam McCalvy he wouldn’t be where he is today without his dad, Carlos Sr. “He’s the guy I owe everything,” the younger Gomez said. “He’s an example to [get an] education, be a good father, respect — and give everything I have right now. I remember the words they told me. ‘If you’re going to play ball, you’re going to play right, or not play.’” Carlos Sr. was a well-regarded second baseman and center fielder in the Dominican Republic. So, who is the better player? With the younger Gomez translating, the elder Gomez told McCalvy, “When we were the same age, 16-21, I used to be better. I used to be faster. I knew the game more than him.” Gomez, with a wide smile, retorted, “I have more tools, more ability to play. Every time we joke around, play around like that, ‘Who’s better? Who’s better?’ I say, ‘I’m the one who has almost eight years in the big leagues!’” Fathers and sons.

In other Brewers news and notes:

  • The franchise has reaped substantial dividends from their decision to sign Jonathan Lucroy to a five-year, $11MM contract extension two years ago, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Lucroy, owner of baseball’s second-best batting average and slashing .333/.396/.504 entering play today, is under team control through 2017.
  • The Brewers are resisting the temptation to recall top prospect Jimmy Nelson and insert him into the rotation in place of Marco Estrada, Haudricourt reports. “Some people say bring Jimmy Nelson up and put him in the bullpen,” GM Doug Melvin told Haudricourt. “But out there you don’t know how much he’ll pitch. We want him to stay sharp down there (Triple-A Nashville) in the event we need him.” The need is fast approaching as Estrada was rocked for three home runs against the Reds this afternoon and has given up 23 gopher balls – most in the Majors – ballooning his HR/9 to 2.46 (84 innings). Haudricourt notes on Twitter 35 of the 45 earned runs allowed this year by Estrada, a non-tender candidate entering his second arbitration year this winter, have come on home runs.’s McCalvy tweets Estrada will remain in the rotation until manager Ron Roenicke speaks with Melvin.
  • It would be too big of a gamble for the Brewers to exercise their half of Aramis Ramirez‘s 2015 mutual option ($14MM with a $4MM buyout) because he’s at the age where players, even reliable and productive ones like the soon-to-be 36-year-old third baseman, start to break down physically, opines Haudricourt’s colleague, Todd Rosiak, in a recent chat. Ramirez played only 92 games last season with knee issues and has missed more than three weeks this year due to a hamstring pull.
  • The Brewers are satisfied with the first base tandem of Mark Reynolds and Lyle Overbay and, barring an unexpected trade, what you see is what you’re likely going to get at that position, according to Rosiak.
  • If the first-place Brewers are inclined to make any Trade Deadline deals, they could focus on strengthening their bullpen and bench, Rosiak writes.