The Blue Jays and right-hander Marco Estrada are discussing a multi-year deal in advance of Friday’s deadline for Estrada to accept or decline Toronto’s one-year, $15.8MM qualifying offer, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Estrada is a client of TWC Sports.
“We’d love to have him back,” interim GM Tony LaCava told Rosenthal, without mentioning any sort of specifics regarding Estrada’s situation. “He was a big part of our success this year.”
Estrada, 32, has an interesting decision on his hands, having earned “only” about $10MM in his big league career. The qualifying offer would net him more money than he’s made as a professional to this point over just a one-year term, but it also comes without the security and stability that would come from knowing where he’ll be pitching for the next two to three seasons. Additionally, as a player whose track record is solid but doesn’t line up with his 2015 results, he’s a player that could cause teams to be skeptical about forfeiting a draft pick in order to sign. A multi-year deal would be a compromise that affords Estrada some security and gives Toronto some much-needed pitching depth, as I speculated at the time that Estrada received the QO (and discussed a week prior on the MLBTR Podcast with Jeff Todd).
For the Blue Jays, the notion of keeping Estrada around on a multi-year deal at a lower annual rate than the qualifying offer’s total undoubtedly has appeal. Estrada posted an excellent 3.13 ERA in 181 innings in 2015 and enjoyed a strong postseason run as well. The Blue Jays are currently set to lose Estrada, David Price and Mark Buehrle from their rotation and also traded away Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd, thinning out internal replacement options. The club will still have blossoming ace Marcus Stroman, veteran innings-eater R.A. Dickey and the inconsistent Drew Hutchison as rotation options next season, to say nothing of 2015 bullpen pieces Aaron Sanchez and Roberto Osuna, both of whom were starters before converting to relief out of necessity this past season.
Nevertheless, the Jays lack a significant amount of rotation depth, and Estrada would give them some stability in their starting staff. The question for Toronto is how to appropriately value Estrada’s 2015 results. While the bottom-line numbers were impressive, Estrada’s strikeout and walk rates trended in the wrong direction for the fourth consecutive season, and a good deal of his run prevention stemmed from an outlier .216 batting average on balls in play. Estrada has long maintained a BABIP lower than the league average, but his BABIP should still be expected to regress to some extent in future seasons, and it’s unknown whether he can maintain 2015’s career-low homer-to-flyball ratio. If those traits prove to be somewhat sustainable, however, the Blue Jays could find themselves with a tremendous asset on their hands, as Estrada was easily the club’s most consistent performer after joining the rotation in early May.