Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada is scheduled to become a free agent in the offseason, but a trip to the open market isn’t a certainty. A member of the Toronto organization informed FanRag’s Robert Murray that there’s mutual interest in keeping Estrada in a Blue Jays uniform beyond this season.
“The player loves Toronto, the agent says publicly he doesn’t want to go anywhere,” the source said. “Frankly, we are open to extending him.”
Estrada is on the verge of completing the two-year, $26MM contract he signed with the Blue Jays prior to the 2016 season. Given his status as an impending free agent and Toronto’s longshot playoff hopes, Estrada seemed like a plausible summer trade candidate. And while the AL East rival Yankees claimed Estrada on revocable waivers this month, they did so in a blocking maneuver, Murray reports (Twitter link). Even if New York had real interest in acquiring Estrada before his 48-hour trade window expired, the Blue Jays weren’t keen on parting with him. In fact, manager John Gibbons told reporters Tuesday that the Jays “need” Estrada.
Despite Gibbons’ endorsement, the 34-year-old Estrada’s 5.09 ERA through 139 2/3 innings likely means his stock has dropped to some extent since the outset of the campaign. He entered the year having combined for a 3.30 ERA over 357 innings from 2015-16, his first two seasons in Toronto. Estrada did so in spite of unremarkable strikeout (7.46 K/9), walk (3.03 BB/9) and ground-ball (32.8 percent) numbers, though he overcame those figures by generating weak contact. No starter posted a better infield fly rate (14 percent) or a lower batting average on balls in play (.224) over that two-year span than Estrada, who’s third in the majors this season in the infield pop-up department (14.5 percent). However, Estrada’s BABIP allowed has skyrocketed to .312 – an increase that has come even though he has continued to do a nice job suppressing strong contact. Estrada’s expected weighted on-base average against is just .303, a far cry from his actual wOBA surrendered (.349, via Statcast and Baseball Savant).
There is some misfortune at play with respect to Estrada’s bloated ERA, then, and it’s also worth noting that his 9.21 K/9, 23.3 strikeout percentage and 11.4 percent are all above average relative to his career numbers. While Estrada’s walk (3.87 BB/9) and grounder (30 percent) rates continue to underwhelm, he remains a capable starter – one who’d generate a decent amount of interest in free agency. Although, if both the Jays and Estrada have it their way, potential suitors among the league’s other 29 teams may not even get the opportunity to bid on him.