The Blue Jays will make the one-year, $15.8MM qualifying offer to right-hander Marco Estrada, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet (via Twitter). Estrada, like all other free agents to receive the QO, will have one week to accept or decline the offer. Should he reject the offer, any club would have to forfeit its top unprotected draft pick to sign him as a free agent. Additionally, the Blue Jays would net a compensatory pick at the end of the first round in next year’s draft.
A qualifying offer for Estrada wasn’t even a consideration heading into the season, especially considering the fact that the 32-year-old opened the year in the bullpen. However, Estrada joined the Toronto rotation in early May and proceeded to deliver the best performance of his career, logging a 3.13 ERA in 180 innings and continuing with an outstanding postseason that saw him surrender just five runs with an 11-to-1 K/BB ratio in 19 1/3 innings.
Estrada will now be faced with an interesting decision. He’s banked a relatively modest $10MM in his career, so the qualifying offer alone could pay him one-and-a-half times his career earnings in just one season. However, Estrada has also never been on a multi-year deal and enjoyed the security that such a pact would afford him, and it’s likely that he’d have received significant multi-year interest without the QO.
The draft pick forfeiture will add to what was already an air of uncertainty surrounding Estrada. Prior to the 2015 season, he’d enjoyed a few quality seasons, but his strikeout and walk rates had trended in the wrong direction — and they did again in 2015 — as he bounced back and forth between the Milwaukee bullpen and rotation. Estrada unquestionably benefited from a minuscule .218 BABIP this season, but it’s also not fair to assume that mark will regress toward the league-average of about .300. As an extreme fly-ball pitcher, Estrada naturally has a lower BABIP (fly-balls are easier to convert into outs but also beget more home runs) and has maintained a .261 career mark in that regard.
A team that believes it can find a way to restore Estrada’s strikeouts while also maintaining a bit of the improved home-run prevention he displayed in 2015 may well think he’s worth the forfeiture of a draft pick — especially if the team has a protected (or late) first-round pick and/or plays in a spacious ball park. Ultimately, the bet here is that he turns the offer down in search of a long-term pact. It’s also possible that Estrada and the Blue Jays compromise and work out a long-term pact in the coming week as he weighs the decision.